Keeping kids safe from disaster
In recent history more people have died from natural disasters in China than in any other country. Climate change increases natural disaster risks. An analysis of 50 years’ worth of data from southern Sichuan near Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, for example, shows that the frequencies of flash floods and hillside disasters have significantly increased, causing massive economic losses.
Most people in Liangshan Prefecture belong to the Yi minority and are farmers, herders or nomadic hunters. Local governments and communities in the area are ill equipped to prepare for disasters in a way that ensures residents are protected, with children particularly at risk.
The overall goal of this Swiss Re Foundation-supported project was to increase risk awareness by building the capacity of children and communities to reduce the negative effects of natural disasters and to promote children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation before, during and after disasters.
Save the Children has designed a pilot child-centred disaster risk reduction (DRR) model well suited to the Chinese context for implementation in an area prone to catastrophes. Child-centred DRR puts children at the heart of DRR activities – recognising their specific vulnerabilities and ensuring they are appropriately planned for and addressed by DRR programmes and policies.
In this project, Save the Children established, for the first time in China, Child Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) to significantly increase awareness of the actions children should take to reduce disaster risk. It worked closely with several levels of local government to build up knowledge and capacity to cope with disasters and to develop a safer environment for the community, with children participating in and often leading activities. Disaster risk awareness formed a part of the school curriculum, and child-led campaigns promoted community risk awareness. Adults worked closely with Child DMCs when conducting risk assessments of their local area and implementing a disaster management plan.
To guarantee project sustainability, Save the Children helped communities and schools link their DRR plans with the actions of relevant local institutions and government departments. The project also focused on advocacy and local government capacity building, including coordination of government agencies which do not normally work together, to ensure that a long-term, sustainable and comprehensive DRR approach is adopted.
The project empowered families and their wider communities to mitigate identified risks of disasters and ensured that the needs and capacities of all children are considered when people prepare for, react to, and recover from disasters and adapt to long-term trends. This will increase the resilience of communities affected by disasters, saving child and adult lives.