The festive season is a time when we come together to celebrate with our loved ones.
But while we are counting our blessings, there will be children who are suffering, their lives torn apart by emergencies such as the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar or the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.
After the immediate emergency response, the crisis doesn’t end for children. Often, they find themselves in desperate circumstances, cold and at risk of hunger, disease and violence.
When disasters strike, families and communities can lose everything, leaving children vulnerable and struggling to survive.
These children have already lost so much, they shouldn’t have to lose their childhood too.
On 28 September 2018, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale struck central Sulawesi in Indonesia. This was followed by a tsunami that devastated the west coast.
The natural disasters have reportedly killed 2,088 people and displaced 78,994 others, who are spread over 110 different evacuation centres. Access to basic services and necessities is a challenge, and children and their families have limited access to electricity, water and sanitation services.
ChildFund is assisting the emergency response to make sure children have enough clean water, food, blankets, and tents. Our other primary concerns are making sure they are able to resume their schooling and access psychosocial support as soon as possible.
Cambodia, Laos and India
In drought-prone parts of Papua New Guinea a group of youth volunteered to become climate change champions so they could teach their communities about drought-resistant farming. Each year during Disaster Preparedness Month students in Jamaica compete in a culinary competition exclusive using non-perishable foods. In the years before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, children and youth from the Iloilo and Zamoanga provinces advocated for disaster reduction measures, which proved crucial during and after the storm.
Children and youth around the world are proving they can play a major role in reducing the risk of disasters and climate change. On October 13, International Day for Disaster Reduction, it is important to acknowledge their role and look for opportunities to increase their involvement.
The focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is the Sendai Framework’s goal of reducing the number of affected people by disasters by 2030.
Children not only comprise a large percentage of the people affected by disasters, they are also the most vulnerable when crisis strikes. This is especially true in situations where a crisis occurs over a significant proportion of a child’s formative years, which can negatively affect the crucial stages of their social, cognitive, emotional and physical development.
Crises can also leave children vulnerable to other risks, such as child exploitation and violence, recruitment into armed forces, long-term injuries or disabilities, as well as separation from parents or caregivers.
Children need to be involved in the solution if we want to reduce the number of people affected disasters. The good news: they want to help.
In 2016 ChildFund and other child-focused development agencies released a report called Putting Children at the Heart of the World Humanitarian Summit, which highlighted the views of more than 6,000 children who have experienced armed conflict, disasters, displacement and other emergencies.
A great number of children said they wanted to be involved in the preparation process and the rebuilding of their communities.
Given the achievements we have seen from children around the world, we need to listen to them.