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Legarda Echoes UN Call for Safe Schools

March 4, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda today echoed the call of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for the Philippines to be a leader country in building safe schools.

 

Legarda, the UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, made the statement as the UNISDR and the Department of Education, in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, launched the UN Global Programme on Safe Schools in the Philippines.

 

“By safe, we mean that school buildings should be structurally sound and built on safe ground. We do not want a strong temblor killing hundreds of children studying inside their classrooms or a whole mountain of mud instantly burying children alive, like what happened in Barangay Guinsaugon,” she said.

 

The safe schools program invites citizens to participate in the process of making schools disaster-resilient with the initial step of assessing the safety of schools in their communities.

 

The Senator recalled that in 2006, 246 schoolchildren were among the more than 1,000 casualties in a landslide that followed several days of heavy rains in Barangay Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte.

 

Meanwhile, in 2013, when typhoon Yolanda made landfall, even some evacuation centers were reached by the storm surge, instantly killing hundreds of individuals who thought they had already sought refuge. Yolanda damaged more than 3,000 schools, aside from other infrastructure, in the affected regions.

 

“It is estimated that annually, disasters affect 66.5 million children worldwide; and because children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, it is important that not only do we keep our children out of harm’s way, but also we make them part of building resilient communities,” said Legarda.

 

She explained that learning institutions and the youth should be directly involved in efforts to make communities safe from disasters. Children should witness and practice disaster risk reduction early on in life.

 

“If we inculcate in our children a level of disaster preparedness, this will be passed on to the succeeding generations when they become adults. This is what we aim with the safe schools initiative. We need safe schools; we need schoolchildren who are knowledgeable and informed about DRR. In making our nation disaster-resilient, we not only protect our young people, but also invest in our country’s future,” Legarda concluded.