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Kids key in disaster planning

Soldiers and military police in Phnom Penh practise rescue techniques next to the Mekong River
Soldiers and military police in Phnom Penh practise rescue techniques next to the Mekong River in preparation for flooding in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Kids key in disaster planning

Stronger disaster planning is needed to avoid future devastation and loss of life caused by flooding, according to a report published by World Vision yesterday.

The report, titled Cities Prepare, recommends that the Cambodian government and civil society work to place “a stronger emphasis on disaster risk reduction … for homes, schools, businesses and in government policies in areas such as health care and municipal planning”.

The report called on the authorities to raise awareness among secondary school students of the risks posed by flooding, adding that about 40 per cent of the casualties in this year’s floods were children.

Chhem Vutha, World Vision Cambodia’s technical officer for disaster risk reduction, said children had an important role to play in educating communities about the risks of flooding by both assisting in evacuations and raising awareness.

Children “share what they learn to [the] community. In addition, they also build networks among youth and children’s clubs and identify the hazard of disaster that their community would face and try to find solutions,” Vutha said.

“[Children] also join together in building awareness to community through concerts, drama performances and campaigns related to how to mitigate risk.”

World Vision also recommended the government better coordinate the building of “safety hills” in disaster-prone areas of the country, so that communities could be more quickly evacuated to high ground in the event of a flooding emergency.

“We have [also] seen a lot of youth involved in evacuating villagers to safety hills during disaster,” Vutha said.

Caroline McCausland and Gianpietro Bordignon, co-chairs of the Humanitarian Response Forum (HRF), said as well as not being able to swim, children often drown in floods because of a lack of supervision and inadequate safety measures.

“Preventing child deaths by drowning requires ongoing concerted efforts by the government and development partners to build knowledge and skills within communities on how to keep children safe and monitor and reduce risks,” they said in an email to the Post.

Flooding devastated large areas of the country in recent months, leaving 168 dead. Twenty provinces and more than 377,000 households were affected, a final situation report by the HRF released on Saturday said. The emergency response cost aid groups more than $1.3 million and an additional $7.3 million will be required for the recovery efforts.

Ministry of Health and National Committee for Disaster Management officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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