Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Schools : International Day for Disaster Reduction

"Traditional and indigenous knowledge is the indispensable information base for many societies seeking to live in harmony with nature and adapt to disruptive weather events, a warming globe and rising seas."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Today, 13 October 2015, we are celebrating the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
By resolution 64/200 of 21 December 2009 the General Assembly decided to designate 13 October as the date to commemorate the Day and to change the Day's name to International Day for Disaster Reduction
The objective of the observance is to raise awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.
"Since the year 2000, almost 1 million people have lost their lives to disasters caused by natural hazards. 2 billion people have been affected. 1 trillion dollars in damage was caused."

The focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction is on the traditional, indigenous and local knowledge which complement modern science and add to an individual’s and societies’ resilience. 
For example, knowledge of early warning signals in nature can be vital to ensuring early action is taken to mitigate the impact of both slow and fast onset disasters such as droughts, heatwaves, storms and floods. 

Combined with scientific knowledge such as reports generated by meteorologists, local knowledge is vital for preparedness and can be passed on from generation to generation.

Knowledge saves lives. This day is an opportunity to focus on the vital importance of traditional indigenous and local knowledge in disaster risk reduction with respect to natural hazards.
The contribution of indigenous and local knowledge to resilience among vulnerable populations was highlighted when the tsunami occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004. 

The third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (14 18 March 2015) in Sendai, Japan, particularly emphasized the need to make this knowledge better known for the benefit of all. 

UNESCO is firmly engaged in this process, through its scientific, educational and cultural expertise. UNESCO is committed to the widest possible dissemination of indigenous knowledge to meet the challenges of climate change and natural hazards, especially in remote areas such as small islands, high altitude zones and the humid tropics. 

With climate change intensifying and millions living in vulnerable areas, the importance of disaster risk reduction is growing rapidly. Close to half of the European Commission's humanitarian aid projects are incorporating disaster risk reduction components. Through its Disaster Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO), the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) supports disaster preparedness activities throughout the world.

Tropical Cyclone Pam | Vanuatu

On the occasion of this International Day, Unesco is inviting Vanuatu school children recently affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam to write essays, poems and stories that depict the use of traditional and local knowledge. 

This traditional and indigenous knowledge also helps to protect the cultural heritage against natural hazards and UNESCO is committed to making the best use of it.
We cannot afford to ignore the knowledge available to us; instead, we must expand on and integrate knowledge and expertise wherever they may be found. 


We cannot afford to ignore the knowledge available to us; instead, we must expand on and integrate knowledge and expertise wherever they may be found.

With the climate changes intensifying, schools must consider to introduce in school lessons natural disasters and its consequences.

It is impossible not to talk about such tragic events in school curriculum.

I know, it is a delicate subject, students must not panic, but it's important to prepare children and young people to natural disasters and help them to reduce the consequences if they are prepared.

There are always shocking images - videos and photos - running on the internet and television.

However a great number of young people watch these events as a distant problem. Not anymore. Climate change. Students must be informed to prevent worst consequences during natural disasters.

Make questions, discuss in the classroom what it is going on around the world and why natural catastrophes such as Haiti earthquake (2010), Katrina hurricane in USA (2005), Haiyan typhoon in Philippines (2013) and Vanuatu Tropical Cyclon Pam, March 2015 are more and more frequent.

Students must have a conscious idea about natural disasters.

And we have a new environmentalist generation among our students. They involved in campaignsthey fight bad behaviors against Earth planet.

In 2013, I wrote a post Education : Stop natural disasters : resources linked to this one. You will find important resources to integrate in your lessons.

Different digital resources are available  to support the theme in your lessons. As educators, we can adapt and introduce them in school curricula to assist students as they seek learning opportunities around emotion-charged dates.

Of course every teacher must review the resources before introducing them, and evaluate one by one in school context.
  • Photography:
There are thousands of photos online (newspapers, television). It's up to every teacher make a research of the best photos adapted to the curriculum and level they teach.

You can also ask your students to search for their personal sights about natural disasters in the last years.
  • Infographic:

Key Facts Infographic 2014
credits : United Nations

  • Websites:
  • National Geographic | Education

Natural disasters contains a selection of content from NG Education about natural disasters: ideas, lessons, resources for different grades. Teachers can use them.
  • A Guide to Education in Natural Disaters here
A complete guide to Education in natural disasters that can be downloaded (PDF file).

  • Videos:

Videos are important digital resources. Students appreciate to watch videos. Please prepare previous pedagogical scripts that you must pass out your students to introduce the discussion. Videos are an ideal, and natural resource to teach and learn. 


The Impossible (2012), the story of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time, based a true story.

This movie shows well what is a natural disaster based on real facts. 

To explore movies in the classroom, read my previous posts Alice in Wonderland in the classroom or International Missing Children.

Curricula: Geography; Sciences; Civics; History; Languages.

Target : all levels from kindergarten to high schools.

Education for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) takes into account the relationships between society, environment, economy, and culture and their impacts. 
It also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving as well as social and emotional life skills that are essential to the empowerment of groups threatened or affected by disasters.

As educators, we need to give children and young adults the skills to keep themselves safe. Knowing how to sniff out trouble, knowing how to avoid it or minimize, and knowing how to handle it when it comes knocking are key essential life skills.



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