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Extreme weather events and natural disasters are becoming more common than ever, and climate change is an inevitable reality that the world must now tackle together. From floods and storms to heat waves and wildfires, the world must now invest extensively in adaptation to what is a new normal for climate change. Developing disaster resilience and preparedness across groups is therefore more critical than ever. Such initiatives must also keep space for a children’s resilience program. Children represent one of the most vulnerable demographics owing to their dependent status and specialized needs and must be involved in resilience education to minimise disaster risks. Let us explore why we must have greater child participation in school and community-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiatives targeting learning preparedness:

Children have immense potential to understand climate resilience

Children have an incredible capacity to absorb new information, follow instructions and make sense of challenging situations. We must recognise their aptitude to swiftly learn resilience principles. A children’s resilience program can allow climate leaders to drive widespread disaster preparedness. Therefore, taking this ahead, teaching methods must incorporate activities, demonstrations, repetition and opportunities to practically apply disaster response protocols. As a result of these practices, young children can build a stepwise understanding about how they must act in emergencies, and also hone their preparedness skills. Concepts like administering first aid, using fire blankets, sending distress signals, identifying escape routes and avoiding panic are all very easily grasped by children and will give them a greater sense of responsibility and purpose. 

hildren can become changemakers, inspiring a societal shift

Along with building their emergency response capacities, disaster resilience education can also spark the ability of children to influence a positive change in disaster preparedness across communities. A resilience and prevention program can enable children to relay life-saving lessons to family and peers, thus transforming how societies approach resilience planning. DRR basics, taught to children in activities and drills, are often a topic of conversation with parents and elders at home and can create a greater context for family members to understand concepts like emergency bags, evacuation spots or stockpiling medical supplies. This is the essence of child-driven communication, and can, over time, lead to greater neighbourhood engagement in preparedness actions like contingency planning and drills.

Empowering children’s voices to enhance responses

These lessons can prepare young children to display judgment and insight in times of disaster. Thus, we must keep them at the centre of the preparedness planning and directly engage children to undertake simulation drills, draft preparedness plans and identify recovery needs. With such an approach, resilience education can provide avenues to apply their insights toward enhancing response frameworks holistically. On the other hand, underestimating children’s capabilities by pigeonholing them as recipients of protection alone restricts harnessing their full potential.

Strategic investment into our shared future

Beyond moral reasons of protecting the young, building children’s disaster resilience has far-reaching multiplier effects on communities’ well-being, stability and productivity. Disaster exposure causes developmental setbacks, chronic trauma, discontinued education and skills learning for children with lifelong implications. However, building resilience knowledge shields against such detrimental spillovers, and safeguards their well-rounded growth. It also guarantees faster recovery and minimizes risks of exploitation faced by families in disasters – enabling children to better support parents in rebuilding lives. The resilience behaviours inculcated during childhood also carry forward across generations as today’s disaster-resilient children grow into disaster-resilient parents and elders themselves – expanding community capability exponentially.

To conclude, there is a clear and compelling argument to be made for embracing child participation in DRR practices. It is crucial for communities seeking to enhance collective preparedness and resilience against a rising tide of climate change. Children can be invaluable partners today with the ability to save lives and be the leaders of tomorrow, who are equipped and ready for greater adaptation and sustainability. Investment by governments and advocates to actively engage children in well-designed, locally contextual disaster education initiatives hence remains a strategic opportunity and can lead to greater community preparedness in the long run.

Bal Raksha Bharat (BRB) is an NGO founded in 2004 that partners with supporters and agencies to realize its vision of building a new India where all children receive equal opportunities, healthcare, nutrition, and protection from exploitation. One of their priority areas is implementing a resilience and prevention program among children, families and communities, particularly vulnerable women and girls.

BRB addresses disaster resilience and climate adaptation by raising community awareness of risks and building preparedness skills focused on nature-based solutions, early warning systems, and alternate livelihoods. Their approaches actively engage children, especially through school partnerships Their collaborated work with the Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction Centre contributes significantly to building a more resilient and prepared India, especially for its most vulnerable young citizens.

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