The observance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction comes at a time when the grave effects of climate change and disasters increasingly strike all over the world. And today, we urge governments to “Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
The Philippines has consistently gone up in global rankings on, unfortunately and alarmingly, climate vulnerability. In 2009, the Philippines was number 12 most at risk from cyclones, floods, earthquakes and landslides based on the Mortality Risk Index by the United Nations International Strategy on Disaster Reduction (UNISDR); in 2010, we were the sixth most climate-vulnerable nation according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index; and for this year, we are considered the third most vulnerable by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.
Our ascent in the global rankings is too fast and very significant. We cannot overlook these figures. To wait for us to become the most vulnerable to disasters is simply inexcusable. Making our Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management laws work is not only a legal requirement, but more so a moral imperative and a social responsibility.
We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of typhoon Pedring. Eighty three people lost their lives due to this typhoon, and what is more lamentable is that thirty-nine of these casualties were children.
Our homes, schools, hospitals, and the whole community are supposed to be safe enough that our children are shielded from disasters. Risk information and early warning dissemination must be effective, giving people a reasonable amount of time left for preparation and, if necessary, for evacuation. This is clearly not the case in the recent flood disaster.
In Asia, the recent devastating floods claimed the lives of many, including a significant number of children. In Cambodia’s worst floods in a decade, 83 of the 207 casualties were children . Thailand’s worst floods in fifty years left at least 635 schools damaged . Meanwhile, Pakistan’s worst floods in history claimed more than 400 lives and affected 2.5 million children .
It is estimated that 66.5 million children are affected annually from disasters . If we only recognize the role of children and young people in building disaster-resilient communities, we can put an end to this trend and turn victims into heroes.
This is the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction: children and your people are vital partners.
We recall the story of Tilly Smith, an 11-year-old British schoolgirl who learned tsunami early warning signs at school. Smith saved her family and other people in Phuket, Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by evacuating early when she observed receding waters.
This year, a Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction, identified through consultations with more than 600 children in 21 countries, was launched to highlight five priorities:
– Schools must be safe – education must be uninterrupted;
– Child protection must be a priority, before, during and after a disaster;
– Children and young people have the right to participate and to access the information they need;
– Community infrastructure must be safe, and relief and reconstruction must help reduce future disaster risk; and
– Disaster risk reduction must reach the most vulnerable.
Children and young people need to be empowered and supported as agents of social inclusion and safety. When we create an enabling environment for children to witness and practice DRR early on in life, we inculcate in them a level of disaster preparedness that will be passed on to the succeeding generations when they become adults.
While the call for more resilient and safer communities resounds all over the world, following the escalating number of lives lost and growing breadth of devastation, the steps we have taken, in the grand scale of the problem, are too small and too slow.
In choosing life over death and destruction, we have yet to secure our choice with responsibility, urgency and unrelenting passion.
How can we realize our goals on poverty reduction and sustainable development with greater certainty of success?
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing, and give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to a safer world a more resilient human society for many generations to come.
 Floods kill hundreds in Southeast Asia, by AFP, 11 October 2011, http://news.yahoo.com
 Heavy floods widespread across Asia. UNISDR Press Release. 30 September 2011
 UNISDR Press Release, 7 October 2011
 2.5 million children affected by Pak floods: UNICEF,
UN ISDR International Day for Disaster Reduction website
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International Day for Disaster Reduction: Step Up for DRR