Children, along with women and the elderly, are especially vulnerable during natural disasters, according to the Indonesia National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), which estimates that 60 to 70 percent of disaster victims fall in those demographic categories. Disaster risk education for youth is a priority for the country. Presenting it in a way that engages and prepares children without unduly frightening them is the goal of a USAID/Indonesia program.
USAID, through its Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience (APIK) Project, empowers youth through climate and disaster education activities in the regions of East Java, Southeast Sulawesi, and Maluku. It all started in October 2016, when USAID APIK organized an event targeting students in Jombang District of East Java to educate youth on how climate impacts their daily lives and how to take appropriate action. Since then, USAID APIK has worked to prepare youth when faced with hydro-meteorological disasters such as flooding, landslides, extreme storms, and drought. The project has engaged more than 3,000 youth thus far to better understand their environment and build resilience.
USAID APIK organizes interactive learning experiences in the classroom, as well as practical field-based training. For example, in May 2017, USAID APIK supported students and teachers in two elementary schools in Kendari City, Southeast Sulawesi, to conduct a disaster risk assessment that identified local risks and established a school disaster preparedness unit. USAID APIK also helped to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs), establish evacuation routes, and post signs informing students of what to do before, during, and after a disaster. The effectiveness of the training and SOPs was then tested through a disaster evacuation simulation.
With sufficient knowledge, children become more aware of what to do when a disaster strikes, as well as what can be done to reduce the risk.
This successful practice was subsequently replicated in other areas. In 2019, USAID APIK facilitated a participatory disaster risk assessment at a junior high school in central Maluku, an area that is vulnerable to flooding, landslides, and tornadoes. During the event, students recalled their memories of disasters and used this knowledge in the assessment and mapping process. Moreover, the students offered recommendations for how to improve the school’s resilience. In the Malang District, students from two elementary schools learned that having an evacuation route and contingency plan is vital, as the area is prone to landslides during extreme rainfall. “I hope this kind of activity can help students living in disaster-prone areas have the knowledge of disaster risk reduction from an early age,” said Sadono Irawan, Head of Disaster Prevention Section in the Local Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) Malang District.
Engaging youth requires a casual approach. It is important that the approach does not lead to counterproductive results, such as causing children to live in fear, but rather helps them to respect the environment and be better prepared for the future. The USAID APIK learning process is appealing to youth through fun activities, such as simulations, games, or movie screenings. In 2017, USAID APIK invited 200 students from various schools to spend the weekend participating in a Disaster Preparedness Camp in Batu City. During the camp, students participated in tree planting along the banks of the Brantas River to reduce the risk of erosion and landslides. In 2019, USAID APIK worked with the Environmental Agency in Jombang District to hold a Green Youth Camp, where students gained knowledge on climate impacts and brainstormed on possible actions that they can take.
USAID APIK also leverages events such as World Meteorology Day and World Environment Day as opportunities to engage with youth. For instance, USAID APIK collaborated with the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency in a series of events where students learned about weather forecasting platforms to receive and share information, thus preparing for extreme weather events. In commemorating the Indonesia National Disaster Preparedness Day (locally known as HKBN), USAID APIK, and BPBD engaged the youth in simulation events in the project working areas. Through this exercise, they received firsthand experience in disaster evacuation and emergency response.
“I learned that when a disaster happens, I should exit from the school building and go to a safer place. Now I know where to go and what to do,” said Centia Sahetapi, a junior high school student. With sufficient knowledge, children become more aware of what to do when a disaster strikes, as well as what can be done to reduce the risk. It is much better than being unprepared.
Disasters often happen quickly and with little warning. Therefore, disaster preparedness and climate awareness from an early age are essential to create a more resilient future.
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