Monday, April 6, 2009

L'Aquila's Nightmare

The advice that people should take cover under tables and remain indoors during an earthquake is redundant. More people die in collapsed structures during earthquakes than from falling debris. As in a fire, people need to clear occupied buildings as quickly as possible, while avoiding stampedes where these buildings may be crowded. The scene in L'Aquila, Italy in horrendous and a reminder of what happened in China last year.

As every expert in education in emergencies know too well, while we are concerned about the dead, injured and homeless, we share an even greater concern for the children, their coping skills and the impact of the disaster on their homes as well as their schools. Often children have to deal with both disruptions and in silence. The kinds of support and resources available to children in the developing world may not and often are not available to children in the rest of the world. They suffer in silence on account of their resilience. Children may be resilient but I believe they bear the scars long after we have moved on to the next disaster

Children who witness abuse, we are told, tend to grow up to be abusers and children who were consistently exposed to domestic violence without intervention tend to become violent themselves. Imagine what happens to children debilitated by disaster after disaster.

School are places where children can learn to cope and is the closest thing to what is perceived as normal for them. Any disruption in schooling can mark a prolonged return to normalcy for them. Restoring school places and teaching children to cope is essential for ensuring sustainable approaches to disaster response and mitigation. School based approaches must focus on teaching children how to protect themselves and others not teaching them about disasters. They need to become instinctive to these threats particularly in region with chronic or recurring exposure to and incidence of disasters.

No comments: