Podcast #39: The role of education in protecting children when disaster strikes

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'Beyond School Books' – a podcast series on education in emergencies

NEW YORK, USA, 9 May 2011 – More than 175 million children are estimated to be affected each year by climate-related disasters. While coping with climate change is becoming essential, so is preparing future generations to deal with the aftermath of disasters and adapt to the ever-changing climate.

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The Third Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction – a forum that brings together stakeholders and experts committed to reducing disaster risk worldwide – gathers this week in Geneva. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Invest Today for a Safer Tomorrow - Increase Investment in Local Actions’.

In anticipation, UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello discussed the importance of education in protecting children and communities with Ben Wisner, a research fellow at Oberlin College and University College London, and Marla Petal, the founder of Risk Red, an organization working to increase the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction education.

Building safely, saving lives

Recent disasters around the world have demonstrated how heavily our modern society depends on critical infrastructure, yet regulations are often overlooked

For Ms. Petal, building safe schools is not only a matter of funding. “It doesn’t cost even 10 per cent more than building unsafely,” she said.

Expanding the conversation, Mr. Wisner added that only pressure from society would ensure the implementation of safe schools. “Governments don’t give full accountability willingly; people have to demand it,” he said.

When disasters strike, women are often responsible for securing food, water, and energy in homes. As a result, they harbour a vast, yet underutilized knowledge of how to build communities’ resilience to natural hazards.

“All over the world, women are the ones who are more pro-active in communities after disaster in bringing together people, establishing social networks,” said Mr. Wisner.

Referring to this week’s forum in Geneva, Ms. Petal said: “I’d like us to put the same diligence and science to work into finding out how to communicate disaster prevention and how to be most effective in disaster prevention education.”