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Reducing the Risk from Natural Disasters in Cancun.

World Vision
19 May 2017 by Megan Williams
Reducing the Risk from Natural Disasters in Cancun.

Singhe with his friends in his school. The entire school building of Bacchala Devi Primary School collapsed making it difficult for them to go back to school. The students are now going to Child Friendly Space (CFS) set up by World Vision.

Each year between 1990 and 2000, an estimated 66 million children were affected by natural disasters (cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, volcanoes). Estimates indicate that this number is projected to triple over the coming decades.

These natural disasters have a significant impact upon children and young people. Children face death, significant injuries, diseases related to malnutrition, poor water and sanitation, protection risks (including sexual violence or child labour), and may suffer psychological distress. However, children and youth can also be key agents of change, both before and during crises, to help understand the risks in their communities, and develop strategies to address these risks.

Acknowledging the impact of disasters on both children and their families, aid organisations like World Vision implement Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs with the communities we work with. Our programs are designed to help communities absorb, adapt and transform the vulnerabilities that keep them at risk of disasters.

In Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila, flimsy houses and buildings stood no chance in the face of Category 5 Cyclone Pam.

We know the devastating impact that natural hazards can have on communities from our own experience in Australia. Yet, despite the fires, cyclones and floods we are faced with, very few people are killed in disasters in Australia. The Australian Government has a strong commitment to understanding the risks that we face, communicating with Australians about the risks and helping individuals and families make choices about how a disaster might affect them and what they should do, and ultimately, in as much as possible, reducing the risks that communities face. Many Australians who face natural hazards, will likely have warnings in advance, safe evacuation routes and shelters, and local and state authorities who are mandated to reduce the risks through activities like flood levy’s and backburning. Australian children are engaged and active participants in this process and learn about risks and how to protect themselves and their families in school and through community education programs. While the risk of natural disasters remains high in Australia, the risk of loss of life or significant loss to economic growth is reduced because we are prepared.

On the island of Tanna, where many people are subsistence farmers, crops have been destroyed. World Vision has been supporting the Government as they carry out food distributions, World Vision will also be supporting families to regrow their crops and gardens.

This isn’t the same for many of the countries where World Vision works. While there are some exceptions, many communities and governments are ill-prepared to deal with natural hazards.

In 2015, 187 Nations around the world gathered in Sendai, Japan to adopt the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This framework is an international agreement to substantially reduce the losses in lives, livelihoods and health of persons, businesses, communities and countries. The Sendai Framework is the major international framework for DRR policy and programs.

Next week, in Cancun Mexico, governments, private sector leaders, academics and representatives from civil society will gather two years after the adoption of the Sendai Framework to discuss progress towards the goals and targets established in 2015. The aim of the Cancun meeting is to strengthen international support to reduce disaster risk worldwide. World Vision DRR experts from around the world will be playing a role in sharing what we have learned, and in articulating our own commitments to DRR.

Nepalese children shelter near where their house used to be in the aftermath of the earthquake.

We are hoping the discussions at Cancun recognise the impact of disasters on children and young people, and acknowledges their potential in making change in their communities.

Your support to World Vision helps us to deliver on our commitment to the Sendai framework, and helps communities to understand, and transform the risks they face, keeping children safer and healthier.

Megan Williams Megan Williams

Megan Williams is a Humanitarian Policy Advisor at World Vision Australia. She specialises in Disaster Risk Reduction, Natural Disaster Management, and Community Resilience.


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