Unique Partnership Helps Communities Shield Children When Disasters Strike U.S.

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – When natural disasters strike, it’s the images of the distressed children that haunt us, as they are always the most vulnerable. Children have unique needs around their physical safety, emotional wellbeing and their long-term development, all of which can be severely impacted by a disaster. Communities need to do everything they can to protect their young, well before the worst happens, and that is why GSK, NCDP and Save the Children have come together to create the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative, which aims to help safeguard the millions of American children at risk of natural or man-made disasters. This collaboration is funded by a $2 million, three-year grant from GSK, which will analyse and recommend procedures, trainings and guidance to help localities in the U.S. shield children from post-disaster devastation.

Every day, 69 million children in the U.S. spend the day at day care or school and if a disaster strikes during that time, 21 states and the District of Columbia lack basic preparedness standards to protect them in schools and child-care centre. Only four in ten families have a plan to deal with such an emergency; it took a staggering seven months to reunify the last child after Hurricane Katrina. The news shows us that every part of the U.S. is susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and floods and more than half of American families have been affected by some type of disaster.

Currently, emergency response plans often fail to address the specific needs of children and their families before, during and after disasters. Children’s day care centres and schools are left out of the equation and may not have the resources and capacity to provide safe, non-traumatic sheltering and displacement services. Studies show that slow recovery can delay the return to normalcy that children need and the long-term impact can be devastating.

The Resilient Children/Resilient Communities project will help empower communities to better understand what kind of actions they can take to protect children from future harm. Over a three-year period, this pioneering initiative will develop two pilot programs – one in Washington County, Arkansas and one in Putnam County, New York. The partnership will guide participating communities through a crisis simulation, helping them develop a sustainable, child-focused action plan. Impact will be measured using the Community Preparedness Index, an evidence-based measure of community preparedness previously developed by Save the Children in collaboration with National Centre for Disaster Preparedness. 

As severe weather and other disasters wreak havoc on local communities, it is hoped that communities will benefit from this initiative and incorporate the unique needs of children into their preparation and response plans, ensuring that every child has the best chance to be protected from harm. Keeping children safe during a natural disaster and giving them the coping skills needed to reduce the effects on their young minds is what drives this project, because we all want our children to be children, no matter what happens.

Photo Credit: Save the Children