“I would like to tell all policy makers and adults: do not underestimate children. We are able to contribute to bringing change. We boys and girls are able to be involved actively in Disaster Risk Reduction” commented a 9 year old Indonesian who attended the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Each year climate change becomes a more serious issue, increasing the frequency and magnitude of disasters, and children are some of the most vulnerable people affected. Children exposed to the long-term effects of disasters endure overwhelming hardships such as the loss of family members, removal from school and their homes, or involvement in conflicts and prostitution. However, providing children with resources to fully comprehend climate change can enable them to become agents of change.
The findings in a survey from “Children on the Frontline: Children and Young People in Disaster Risk Reduction” reveal that children are widely excluded from activities that contribute to building the resilience of their communities. In reaction, World Vision and Plan International have created the Children in a Changing Climate coalition dedicated to empowering children to become informed communicators of disaster risk reduction. The coalition advocates for children’s rights and believes young people should be included in decisions relating to climate change and disaster risk reduction. It hosts events and shares research through film, print, and online media that indicates the importance of giving children a voice.
In December 2012, Plan International trained elementary and high school children from eight villages in Gandara, Samar in the Philippines in Risk Reduction & Management and Climate Change Adaptation. The children learned how to avoid and mitigate the effects of climate change-related disasters like floods and tsunamis that affect their school and communities, and will share their new knowledge with classmates and community members. The Philippines experienced devastating floods last summer; from August 6-7, about two months worth of rain fell on the capital city and surrounding provinces. This same flood forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee their homes and killed 95 people.
Earlier in 2012, 17 children from all over Southeast Asia attended the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and presented their ideas about youth engagement to government officials. Children can raise awareness through radio shows, theatrical performances, and street campaigns, share information with family and friends, and practice disaster drills to be more prepared.
The Children in a Changing Climate website provides a database of reports about children and disasters. The CityLinks team and ICMA International also incorporate youth into our upcoming projects, so remember to check our website for the latest news and resources. For more information on ICMA’s other international programs, click here or visit the International Dispatches blog on the Knowledge Network.