WASH manager Jimmy Daniel, Community member Linkae Kawia and David Crisante, DFAT view the damage after Cyclone Pam
In recent weeks, our news-screens have been overwhelmed by images of communities around the world grappling with the implications of natural hazards. Volcanoes are erupting in Vanuatu and Bali triggering significant people movement, tropical cyclones have devastated the Caribbean, and extensive flooding has affected large areas of India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the wake of the full force of these natural hazards, to sit back and believe that nature is against us and we are powerless to respond. But the opposite is true.
World Vision works with communities around the world, helping them to understand the risks they face, to address the conditions that might make them susceptible to natural hazards and shocks, and to build the capacity of communities to reduce their risks and build resilience.
In the Solomon Islands, World Vision Australia in partnership with Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), supported communities in Makira Province to learn about disaster preparedness, thus reducing the impact of future disasters. Silas, the chairman of the Development Association, explained how he learnt about disaster preparedness: “When there is a tsunami warning, we run up to the hill. We don’t come and look out to sea,” he says. “We also learn when we evacuate, we shouldn’t be busy with other things; we should run fast for safety.”
This knowledge was put to the test in the December 2016 Solomon Islands earthquake. “During the recent disaster, the training from World Vision really helped us because everyone knew what to do,” Silas says. “Everyone just ran. All the children from the school were [up the hill] first, because we learn from the training and then we teach our children.”
The community also knew not to come back down until everything had settled. Police called community leaders like Silas by radio and mobile and gave them the all-clear to return to the village.
In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly declared 13 October International Day for Disaster Reduction. Today is designated as a day to promote a culture of risk-awareness, and celebrate how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters. In 2017, the day is focused on the actions, policies and practices that can reduce exposure to disaster risk at the community level and help to save homes and livelihoods when a natural hazard strikes.
As part of making our everyday spaces safe and resilient, World Vision has been involved in promoting and facilitating ‘safe schools’ in East Asia. In the Asian region, nine out of ten children spend half of their waking hours in school and oftentimes, school facilities are not constructed to be disaster resilient. Most recently, flooding in the South Asia region (India, Nepal and Bangladesh) has precluded 1.8 million children from attending school.
While children are especially vulnerable to the threat of disaster, they can also be powerful agents of change if equipped with knowledge of preparation and action.
As a lead organisation supporting the ASEAN Safe School Initiative in East Asia, World Vision Thailand is supporting the construction and retrofitting of safe learning facilities and school disaster management. Workshops on DRR have included school-based hazard mapping for 15 schools with collaboration with government and education partners.
WV’s HEA Director in East Asia, Meimei Lueng, advocates for safer schools for children stating, “it is crucial the place they [children] spend most of their time – school – is a place that should protect them.” In addition to fortifying school buildings to withstand the forces of nature, understanding how natural hazards interact with the environment and disaster risk education should be a component of school curriculum, to help empower children to ensure their families and communities are safe from hazards.
We can’t stop natural hazards from occurring, but we can reduce the risks of these hazards turning into disasters and we can all do our part to educate ourselves on the risks we face – here in Australia, and for World Vision, with communities we work with around the world.
Your support of World Vision helps our work with communities to understand, and transform the risks they face, making children and communities safer and more resilient.