Philippines launches safe schools campaign post-Haiyan

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

21 November 2013, MANILA – The Philippines today looked to the future and launched a new “Safe Schools” campaign with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) even as the country continues to deal with the many humanitarian needs left behind by Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda including the fact that thousands of children are unable to return to education because over 600 schools have been destroyed and 1.7 million children have lost their homes.

Margareta Wahlström, the head of UNISDR, helped launch the initiative which will target 48,000 public schools, with the Under Secretary for the Department of Education, Dina Ocampo, Senator Loren Legarda and the UNDP Country Director, Tohishiro Tanaka. Under the slogan, “How Safe is Your School?” the programme is designed to raise public awareness and build social demand for safety checks, disaster preparedness, and school education on disaster risk reduction.

Ms. Wahlström said: “The Philippines can emerge from the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan as a world leader in safe schools by bringing its experience of implementing this programme to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 when a global campaign will be launched. There is an opportunity now as rebuilding gets underway. We must see a paradigm shift away from simply building back better to building back differently and elsewhere. Build in safe locations and build high enough to withstand storm surges.”

The new programme is designed to build social demand for preliminary safety assessments of schools in disaster-prone countries like the Philippines using crowd-sourcing through action led by children, teachers, students, principals, local authorities and community volunteers. The focus will be on the safety of the buildings, preparedness such as emergency drills, and ensuring that reducing disaster risk is on the school curriculum.

Ms. Ocampo welcomed the programme and said government agencies would carry out retrofitting and repairs to buildings identified as defective. “Schools are owned by communities but shepherded by the Department of Education. An initiative like this keeps us in touch with the users and I will support it.”

Senator Legarda said it was important to make buildings safe but also to make sure “that students and school staff are prepared in the event a natural hazard occurs.”

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