School children to play vital role in earthquake emergencies

Tanzania Earthquake Awareness 2
School children are set to play an important role in Tanzania's disaster risk reduction by contributing to the enhanced awareness and preparedness of their communities (Colin McMechan)

Children's welfare after natural disasters, Education in emergencies

Tanzania's government is introducing new disaster measures at schools and asking students to make their communities aware of the dangers.

When an earthquake struck in Tanzania two years ago, 15 of the 20 people who died were students at a secondary school.

The quake was a moderate one of 5.9 magnitude – but it damaged hundreds homes and other buildings in and around Bukoba town in Kigera province. The boys who died were at Ihungo boarding school in Buboka.

After the disaster in September 2016, there was criticism of the country’s early warning systems and disaster management when it comes to handling natural events such as earthquakes and floods.

Now children in Tanzania are being asked to play a crucial role in making their families and communities aware of the dangers and what they need to do when disaster strikes.

A government initiative in partnership with the United Nations will also see a variety of measures at schools including:

  • Getting school children used to disaster response drills
  • Integrating education in emergencies issues into school clubs
  • Examining how ready schools are to respond to emergencies
Tanzania Earthquake Awareness 1

The new initiative recognises the importance of including children in disaster risk reduction (UNICEF / Beechey)

Charles Msangi, Disaster Management Coordinator from the Prime Minister’s Office, said: “Considerable progress has been made … including building resilience and skills for school children through Education in Emergency simulations and drills on preparedness and response during common emergencies.”

The damage from earthquakes can cause long-term disruption to education.

In Mexico more than 5000 schools were destroyed or damaged by massive earthquakes in September last year. In Nepal three years ago, 5000 schools were destroyed and many more damaged, putting one million children out of school. The country is still rebuilding its education system.

Earlier this year, tens of thousands of children had their education disrupted by a quake in Papua New Guinea that damaged hundreds of schools.

Afghanistan and Turkey – two of the world’s earthquake hotspots – are making huge efforts to upgrade or replace thousands of at-risk schools. 

Turkey is building 1500 earthquake-resistant classrooms in the next three years to ensure safe access to education for Syrian refugee children and host communities.

Julian Palma, a disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank, said last month: “Of the 16,400 existing schools in Afghanistan, a vast majority are single-storey masonry school buildings that are highly vulnerable to earthquakes.

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