With climate change exacerbating the number and intensity of weather-related natural disasters like typhoons and floods, it is important that communities prepare for when a disaster hits. We need to think through what to do during an emergency, and how to reduce its negative long-term impacts.
A community’s children need to be part of this planning too, since they play a key role in tackling climate change. Their schools are often centers in their communities that can become agents for change for disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. They also often act as evacuation shelters. This is why USAID/Indonesia’s Adaptasi Perubahan Iklimdan Ketangguhan (APIK) project made working with schools a priority.
APIK began in November 2015 with the overarching aim of supporting the Indonesian government, communities, and businesses to be more resilient to climate and weather-related disasters at the national level and in East Java, Southeast Sulawesi, and Maluku Provinces. The project’s place-based approach emphasizes that climate vulnerability is directly linked to each locale’s unique landscape, as well as to socioeconomic and institutional characteristics.
There are four fundamental aspects of making schools safe from disaster—1) knowledge, attitude, and action, 2) policy, 3) preparedness planning, and 4) resource mobilization—which the project took into account when designing activities. Many of these activities focused on training students and teachers alike what to do when disasters occur. For example, a two-day event in February 2019 at elementary schools in Malang District, East Java Province, reached 200 students and helped the schools prepare evacuation routes and contingency plans. A youth camp marking Earth Day 201 in Jombang, East Java Province, marking Earth Day 2018 taught more than 100 students basic first aid.
At an event for 2019 Disaster Awareness Day, students in Maluku Province planted trees as a symbolic act of protecting nature in order to reduce disaster risk. Still other students on Saparua Island developed a participatory disaster risk assessment in order to have a better understanding on what to do during disasters and how to reduce their risk. APIK sponsored disaster and evacuation drills and simulations at many schools, from primary to university level, and as a result, these schools now have standard operating procedures in place to respond to flooding.
In support of all these activities, APIK and the Local Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) in Maluku Province developed communication materials, such as handbooks, leaflets, and posters that provide information on what actions can be done to reduce flood risk and how to respond to disaster. These handbooks have been distributed to 40 schools so far.
The APIK project has now concluded, but BPBD plans to continue to work with schools and universities. The established network between these education institutions and BPBD is expected to lead to improved disaster management and response, helping children and their communities cope with the uncertainties of climate change.
To learn more about the USAID APIK Project, download the final report.
Christine Chumbler is a communications professional with more than 20 years experience in writing, editing, and publications design. She has expertise in every stage of publication production, from concept and writing to editing, design, and printing. In the mid-1990s, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This experience led to a career using her writing and editorial skills with international development and foreign policy organizations, many of which worked to directly support USAID’s efforts. She has worked in a freelance capacity full-time since May 2016. Chumbler has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.