With the ever changing climate, natural disasters have become more common than ever. With 2017 recording two of the most destructive hurricanes ever, 2018 has now been ranked as one of the worst years for natural disasters in history. With the increase in frequency, severity and unpredictability of disasters, the question becomes not when the next disaster will strike, but how can preparedness and resilience be encouraged to empower communities to withstand and adapt?
Rescue Global, an NGO based in the United Kingdom, has a mission to save lives by enabling others. Preparedness and resilience building operations are at the heart of their work, with programs targeted at national, community and household levels. Much of their focus is on informing decision makers of nation-state and multinational corporations of the risks and effects of disasters. However, to ensure that resilience is embedded at all levels, the team also conducts training for communities and households, including to children, about natural disasters, and are launching their innovative program in Nepal.
Nepal suffered from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, causing widespread devastation. The country is also extremely vulnerable to other threats like floods, landslides and avalanches, all being detrimental to infrastructure and deadly for the communities affected. But, why teach children? Nepalese demographics show a large youth population and by training them, the knowledge has a wide impact. Additionally, studies show that engaging children in disaster preparedness builds community resilience in the long-term and immediately improves protection for vulnerable groups.
Awarded by the Thales Foundation and sponsored by Thales UK employees (Kimberly Abbott and Stuart Munnich), the 2018-2019 Nepal program will target 90 school children aged 5-16, focusing on essential subjects like the awareness of key hazards, household and community preparedness, search and rescue basics, self-rescue skills and the risks of exploitation by human traffickers after disaster strikes.
More concretely, the children are given handouts in their classrooms that aid them in defining what the possible risks are in their region, what effect this can have on their community and are encouraged to memorize the appropriate phone numbers to call in case of disaster (fire service, ambulance, police). The training programs are offered in English, with Nepalese interpreters, and partnerships with local teams and disaster experts in their area provide materials in the local languages, assuring the largest impact in a concentrated amount of time.
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