SOS CHILDREN URGE THE EU TO FOCUS ON CHILDREN TO REDUCE RISK FOLLOWING DISASTERS
“We are learning in school how to protect ourselves during storms and earthquakes,” says a child from SOS Children’s Village Port-au-Prince in Haiti. “I wish we could have learned that earlier, so we would have been safer and better prepared at the time of the earthquake.”
Every year, 66 million children around the globe are affected by natural disasters. In Haiti alone, at least half of the 220,000 casualties from the January 2010 earthquake were children. Nearly 100,000 children were orphaned or separated from their families after the 2010 earthquake. Many vulnerable boys and girls were exposed to trafficking, violence, and abuse as a result. Now nearly two years on, more than 500,000 Haitians remain displaced in temporary camps; half of them girls and boys under the age of 18.
On International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which took place earlier this month, SOS Children, Plan International and World Vision issued a joint press release urging the European Union to make children a priority in nations’ efforts to reduce the risk and impact of disasters.
Following Haiti’s earthquake, the European Commission and EU member states committed €1.2 billion (£1 million) to the country's long-term reconstruction. Yet, according to SOS Children and the other NGOs which are pushing for change, most children “are insufficiently participating in activities that could contribute to building protected and resilient communities and ensuring a future in which children are safe and can participate in the development of their country.”
As well as petitioning the EU to increase child protection measures prior to disaster, the NGO group argue that too often preparation for disasters are limited to infrastructural development, building codes and policy reform. The EU should also recognize that investing in community-based resilience is just as important in reducing risk during and following a disaster.