Child advocates push for children participation in disaster risk-reduction management program

IN TIME of the third anniversary of the tragedy brought by Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana), child welfare group Akap Bata Philippines launch a project with theme ‘Bata Bata sa sa Kalamidad Laging Handa’ in Quezon City today that aims to push for active participation of children in risk-reduction management efforts.

Kids plant trees and light candles also at the QC Memorial Circle as part of their commemoration activity to the one of the worst tragedy that hit Metro Manila three years ago.

Based from 2009 data of the National Disaster Risk-Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Ondoy left almost 277 death toll nationwide, 5 people injured, 42 missing and caused an estimated P4.8 billion in damages in Metro Manila alone. Of the 277 death toll, 44 came from Quezon City, particularly in Barangay Bagong Silangan. On a separate research of Akap Bata Philippines, 104 communities in Quezon City are disaster-prone areas having a combined population of 6,206 families.

‘The participation of children in societal building is imbedded in their rights as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child.  This aspect of their right should be explored to the fullest extent,’ says Rev. Ruel Dia Gracia, executive director of Akap Bata Philippines.

Dia Gracia added, ‘Against the backdrop of mind-sets that children are objects of change, the participation of children in development makes them subjects of change. In recognizing their inherent right to participate in development, we enhance their dignity as persons.’

According to Akap Bata Philippines, their newly-launched project will focus on communities that were victims of recent calamities in Quezon City. They said that kids aged 13-17 in these areas will be provided disaster management and reduction skills to enable them to protect themselves and other children and assist their parents and authorities implement disaster risk-reduction and management (DRRM) plans during calamities.

Dia Gracia also explained that key components of the project are seminar-workshops for child leaders who can be found in schools and neighborhood associations. These seminars-workshops will include trainings on leadership, general orientation on DRRM, and key intervention skills such as data gathering and psycho-social programs during and after the calamities. Akap Bata Philippines will also conduct a trainors’ trainings to enable the young people to echo them in selected communities.

The group said that they will be implementing the project in 35 disaster-prone communities in Quezon City. They picked the said areas based on the numbers of active student and children-leaders willing to volunteer on their project, number of existing people’s organizations and the gravity of active involvement of the barangay councils through their representatives.

Dia Gracia stresses, ‘Throughout this project, we envision to develop empowered children, parents and families that will actively contribute in disaster management at the community level. Their actual involvement in disaster management plans, including planning itself, enables them to actively participate in various levels of disaster risk mitigation and management activities and consequently developing themselves in the process.’

On the commemoration activity today, personalities as Representative Teddy Casino, Diocese of Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr, QC Mayor Herbert Bautista, QC Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, Akap Bata Party-List National Secretary-General Arlene Brosas, Social Services Development Department head Tess Mariano and representatives from UNICEF and other faith-based organizations.

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