13th October marked the United Nations International Day for Disaster Reduction; the focus of this year's awareness day is on the valuable contribution that children can make in reducing the impact of natural disasters and in making decisions that can safeguard both their lives and the lives of people in their community.
In a recent fact sheet published by the UK Health Protection Agency collaborators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Save the Children address the impact of natural disaster on child health, such as information on the causes of neonatal mortality and risk of infections in the aftermath of a disaster. The information is also available on the HPA website and can be used by aid workers, local authorities and charities in order reduce the impact of disasters on public health.
Professor Virginia Murray, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at the HPA commented:
"Events this year with the earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand, tsunami in Japan and hurricanes and heat-waves in America, have shocked the world and reminded us how vulnerable we all are to natural disasters. The Disaster Risk Reduction day provides us with an opportunity to educate children on the health impacts of extreme events experienced in the UK such as floods and heat waves.
There is much we can do to lessen the devastating impact natural disasters can have on public health through engaging in education about risk reduction. Children can be extraordinary advocates through their knowledge and understanding of extreme events. While children can suffer from extreme trauma following a natural disaster, portraying children simply as victims can fail to acknowledge the valuable roles they can play in reducing the health impacts of a natural disaster."
This year at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva also saw the launch of a children's charter that promotes five key priorities, including:
- Child protection is a vital priority before, during and after a disaster
- Disaster risk reduction must reach the most vulnerable
- Community infrastructure must be safe with relief and reconstruction helping to reduce future risk
- Children have the right to get involved and access information they need
- Schools must be safe with uninterrupted education