Plan International has mobilised children and youth in El Salvador to play a significant role in environmental resources management and disaster risk reduction (DRR). The children and youth have worked with their communities in developing risk maps, designing community emergency plans, setting up early warning systems, and implementing response, mitigation, and risk reduction plans, among other activities. The project is being implemented in 12 municipalities of 3 departments (La Libertad, Chalatenango, and San Salvador), with the following beneficiaries: 56 communities, 56 youth groups (1,120 girls and boys), community emergency committees that were formed and trained at community and municipal levels (1,740 women and men), and 50 schools that received disaster prevention training. Plan International's disaster management activities in these communities began in 2002, in response to the impacts of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The DRR phase of the work began in January 2006 with December 2010 as its completion date.
This effort centres around building capacity in the areas of child protection and child participation, as well as the creating a conducive policy environment whereby stakeholders (those in authority - including parents and teachers) are appreciative and supportive of children and youth participation. Training on risk reduction and mitigation has been carried out through tools such as: participatory vulnerability assessment; risk vulnerability and capacity mapping; preparation of community plans; and coordination and mobilisation of groups with municipal governments, schools, and civil society organisations (CSOs). Support has also been provided for micro-projects designed and implemented by youth groups seeking to raise awareness about risk reduction, and to strengthen inter-institutional networks to ensure children's voice in other disaster prevention projects.
Plan International has drawn upon the educational system as a locus of support for children's and youth's roles in risk communication, education/awareness raising, advocacy, and practical risk reduction activities. Through a partnership with the Education Ministry to integrate and scale up "School Protection Plans", organisers have mainstreamed DRR into school infrastructure, integrated teacher training and curriculum, and implemented complementary projects on environmental management and risk reduction. Aided in part by the dissemination of child-centred DRR learning material, 50 schools designed hazard maps and mobilised resources to implement their own disaster management plans to address identified risks in their communities. School-based emergency committees are now functional in the 56 most vulnerable communities. Children and young people have taken the lead in strengthening of risk management actions such as managing evacuation centres, protecting river banks, protecting their families and communities, and implementing environmental management projects. For instance, youth from 45 communities have participated in a waste recycling project, whereby tons of plastic waste have been collected and sold to a recycling company.
This project also involves an advocacy component. Organisers are promoting the importance of child and youth participation in DRR amongst policymakers and other national and international actors (international humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, the media, etc.) An effort has been made to ensure that DRR public policies include provisions for the participation of children. In addition, as part of their own work with the project, youth have advocated for greater attention to and action on disaster prevention by authorities.
Risk Management, Environment, Children, Youth.
According to organisers, children represent more than a third of disaster victims, yet the humanitarian sector generally restricts their role in disasters to that of passive victims. The initiative described above is premised on the conviction that the emphasis on rights-based approaches to humanitarian work brings forward the right of children and youth to be protected from hazards and vulnerabilities through their participation in disaster-related decisions and efforts.
Key lessons learned include:
Plan International is working on developing replicable tools for implementing child- and youth-centred DRR as a way to contribute to positive changes in local, national, and international disaster management policies and practices. Click here to learn more about Plan's DRR work with children and youth, worldwide.
Different phases of the project have been funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the European Commission, the United Kingdom (UK) Government's Department for International Development (DfID), and Plan International.
Building Disaster Resilient Communities: Good Practices and Lessons..., United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, 2007; and email from Nick Hall to The Communication Initiative on November 2 2008.