Children can play their role in climate and disaster reduction: research

16:27, November 20, 2009      

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Research programs in Indonesia and Thailand show that children can play their role, sometimes an important role in climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Avianto Amri, Disaster Management Specialist, Plan International, Indonesia presented the latest research on how climate change affects children and their rights recently in Stockholm.

"There is a lot of impact on the children in climate change from crisis education, such as destruction of houses and finding shelters for them, like food and health," said Amri.

"Why do we involve children in disaster reduction? First is that children like to do something to help, also if the children know, they are the ones who act quickly. There is nothing impossible." said Amri.

"One of our research in Indonesia involves in different age groups and different gender groups, every group have different priorities, they will identify their risks and set up their priorities. What we see is that for example, the boys group think flooding is the top priority for them in their village, while the female groups think the dam beaver must be prioritized. But the main point is that you have to build consensus, you have to make them to work together to deal with the risks, it is not just the boys or girls groups. You have to make it a resilient community,” said Amri.

"Second, children must be able to know what is the risk and how to deal with it. But children are usually the secondary citizen in their family and daily lives. At the beginning when I ask a 14 year old boy about what is children’s role in risk reduction, he said, ‘We are just small children. We can’t do much.’ But at the end of our project, the boy said, we can choose which trees we should cut because we should make sure the forests should not be destroyed totally. The boys are usually the ones to cut the wood for cooking. They also try to plant trees to protect the environment,"said Amri.

Another research is about participatory method for children. Elder children are using documentaries to train the younger children about why they are concerned about the environment and informed with the figures and then the children will tell their parents about it. This participatory tool is also the way to communicate risk to policy makers.

"Children can make great contributions to environment protection. Bigger children can teach young children about trees and knowledge about environment. They can also influence the policy makers, children also expressed their concerns in the climate conference, on disaster and risk reduction," said Amri.

According to Amri, floods in big cities in Indonesia is more often than before, usually flooding happens every 5 years, but now every 2 years, or 3 years.

"children are more easy to access information and better informed, I can say children know better about climate change than adults. They are the citizen of present and they are future leaders," said Amri.

Ms. Sophapan Ratanachena, program officer in Disaster Reduction and Emergency of Save the Children in Thailand shares her experience from involving children in disaster risk reduction in emergencies at the same seminar held in Stockholm.

"The background is to build around the idea of participation. Children should be the leader in the community, they should go to adults and get the information from the adults about the community and learn about it. They should identify the risks and learn the way to deal with it. During the process, they use the poster or drama to learn risk reduction knowledge. They participate in drawing the map of the community and find the vulnerable areas," said Ratanachena.

"For us children participated in the education program is putting added value to communities which are vulnerable to disaster because children can really help their family and parents to reduce the risk, associated with disaster and climate change and through analysis of the disaster. Children can be the agent, they can pass on the message to their parents through a play or through their story, and the message from children is very simple and very clear, and they provide simple solution to the adults, also they can help holding the community together," said Ratanachena.

"Children can cover important issues for example, they are really observant to their community, they know exactly which household has disabled people or which house has pregnant women, and they can easily access to those households," noted Ratanachena.

"It is really amazing to see that some issues the adults may overlook or not pay attention to. From the process of our program, we find that children can and are willing to help if they are well informed, if they know what they are going to do, what are the process of the activity and what is the benefit they will get or the whole community will get. The activities should be easy to understand and the issue should be relevant to their life and their community, they should be really interested in that,"said Ratanachena.

By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online reporter in Stockholm
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