by Brigitte Leoni
New York, 5 November 2018 – Students attending a World Tsunami Awareness Day Event in New York have called for more educational programmes on disaster risk reduction from an early age.
Twenty students, aged 16 to 18 years, and their teachers from the United Nations International School and Keio Academy discussed ways to be better informed to prevent and deal with disasters at the event organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Government of Japan.
“We need to feel that we can anticipate disasters. Participating in earthquake and tsunami drills is important but we also need to understand why disasters do happen and what we can do to reduce their negative impacts,” said a student from the United Nations International School.
“Learning from an early age how to invest in prevention measures is very important as you will be the city planners and decision makers in the world of tomorrow,” said the UN Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, opening the event.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan for reducing disaster losses by 2030, recognizes the role and responsibilities of children and youth as agents of change and calls for their participation in disaster risk reduction.
“If I had known what to do back in 2004 when the tsunami struck in the Indian Ocean…I would have probably reacted in a different way,” said Petra Nemcova, Co-Founder of “All Hands and Hearts-Smart Response” and UNISDR World Tsunami Awareness Advocate who lost her companion in the tragedy.
“I learned the hard way but knowledge is vital when you have a couple of seconds to decide what to do,” added Ms Nemcova who is now devoting part of her time to rebuilding safe schools in post-disaster areas and promoting disaster risk reduction to better protect children against disasters.
In addition to the debate, UNISDR also relaunched an upgraded version of its Stop Disasters game, developed by partner PlayerThree.
The game teaches players how to understand a risk map and to invest in simple mitigation measures such as upgrading the resilience of schools, hospitals and houses or planting mangrove barriers to protect shores of exposed communities.
The game was launched in 2006 and includes five scenarios – tsunami, flood, earthquake, hurricane, wildfire – with three levels of difficulty. The player has a budget to spend, and tasks to make their town more resilient against disasters within a time limit before a real disaster is simulated.
The simulation game has already been viewed by millions of players and, in its upgraded form, is now also accessible on smart phones and tablets. The Stop Disasters game has also inspired a popular new massive and open online course (MOOC) developed by McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Mr. Hamish Young, Chief, Humanitarian Action and Transitions Section, Programme Division at UNICEF; Mr. Futoshi Toba, Mayor of Rikuzentakata, Japan and Mr. Toshiya Hoshino, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations in New York also participated in the discussion and highlighted the importance of knowledge in anticipating and preventing future disasters.