By Yuki Matsuoka
KOBE, 11 March 2013 - UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström today announced that children from Japan who continue to live with the consequences of the Great East Japan Earthquake, will attend the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in May.
Ms. Wahlström who has recently returned from her fourth visit to Japan since the earthquake, said: "The resilience of children to disasters is epitomized for me by the thousands of Japanese children who have survived the disruption to their lives caused by this disaster and who are now helping their families and friends to get back to some semblance of normality while taking an active role in helping to reduce disaster risk in their communities.
"It is vitally important that we hear the voices of children from disaster-affected parts of the world at the next Global Platform which will have a significant influence on the next international framework for disaster risk reduction which will be agreed in 2015 at a world conference in Japan."
She said that Japanese school children and youth had asked her to ensure that their voices will be heard at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in May.
At a dialogue event organized by Save the Children, Ms. Wahlström met a group of five children and youth from Fukushima Prefecture, including two junior high school students, two high school students, and one university student, who shared with her their worries and concerns as they live with the consequences of the events of two years ago.
Ms. Juri Hamatsu (15) said: "After the nuclear power plant accident, we've been afraid of having school lunch, and using the swimming pool at school. It'd be really sad if my younger brother could not enjoy playing outside".
Mr. Suguru Yokota (15) said that there were different opinions among classmates whether they should eat lunch and drink milk provided by schools.
Ms. Suzu Tateno (16) said: "We are facing a shortage of doctors and nurses in our area as many of them have evacuated from the area - especially pediatricians and obstetricians/gynecologists. For us children in the affected area, this increases a sense of insecurity and we want the situation to be improved".
Ms. Ayumi Honda (16) said: "We want all the children to be able to participate in the recuperation programs in an equal manner. The program should be offered in a classroom unit, grade level unit, or school unit so that all the children in Fukushima prefecture can equally enjoy the benefit".
As a group, they said that "In order to advance the reconstruction process in Fukushima prefecture, we want more people to be concerned with the situation in the prefecture, and want more opportunities where children in Fukushima can speak out".
In the dialogue, the children expressed their anxiety, but at the same time communicated a strong message by stating "It is quite important to be positive and strong, if we want to promote the reconstruction of Fukushima. Now we know we can never bring the same Fukushima back again like it used to be before 3.11, but we are determined to cooperate in whatever we can do, so that we can recover normal, everyday lives for children once again".
In response to the children, Ms. Wahlström commented: "After two years have passed, it is difficult for the international community to gain much information on long-term impacts to the local populations made by the accident. Therefore, it is quite meaningful to disseminate the thoughts and feelings of these children as widely as possible".
She also suggested that "It would be a good idea to have opportunities to talk with children with similar experiences in different countries, for example, children who have been affected by hurricanes or floods".
The UNISDR Chief emphasized the importance of voices and opinions from children and youth when it comes to the discussion of disasters, as it is about their future. Children are not just a vulnerable group, but can play vital roles in their communities to prepare for future disasters.
The Children's Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction was formally launched by children at last Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2011 and was developed by UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan International and World Vision through consultations with more than 600 children in 21 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Save the Children Japan will support the participation of children from the Tohoku Region in the coming Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in May in Geneva.