IFRC


Why the world’s youth are key to reducing the impact of disasters

Published: 13 October 2011 10:31 CET

Statement from Bekele Geleta,  Secretary-General International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

This year alone, we have witnessed disasters on an unprecedented scale - the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, devastating floods in Pakistan and Australia, and the serious food crisis in the Horn of Africa to name just a few. But we must also remember the hundreds of smaller disasters which have caused enormous damage and upheaval to the lives of millions around the world.

Young people are often seriously affected when disasters strikes and can face severe difficulties in coping with unexpected and traumatic interruptions to their lives. But despite this, the world’s youth are also the very people who can teach their communities - and the wider world - how to reduce the risks and impact of disasters. Young people are unmatched by any other demographic group in their ability to bring about meaningful change in social behaviour and attitudes. We must not underestimate their potential to make a real difference in the time of disasters.

This is why children and young people are central to Red Cross Red Crescent disaster risk reduction efforts. Globally, around half of the 13 million Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are young people. Not only do we pay special attention to their needs when disasters strike, but we also engage them in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction programmes. We recognise their unique role and the value they can provide as innovators, inter-cultural ambassadors, peer-to-peer facilitators, community mobilizers, and advocates for vulnerable people.

In June 2009, young people from 150 countries, representing the millions of young Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers committed themselves to working on disaster preparedness, response and recovery, including innovative solutions in areas such as psychosocial support, advocacy for climate change adaptation, food security, and access to safe and clean water.

Since then, youth led programming has proven to be effective even in the most challenging of environments, such as the Kwale communities in drought stricken Kenya. The award winning Kenya Red Cross Kwale communities project raised awareness amongst children and young people about the problems caused by climate change, provided them with necessary training, and mobilized them as  agents of change in building the resilience of the communites to recurring drought and famine.

The young people involved in the project worked with Kwale communities to raise their awareness on causes and effects of climate change and ways in which they could adapt. With the help of the young Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, communities improved their early warning and preparedness systems, updated the community disaster response plan and strengthened food security through promotion of modern farming methods. Through the project, the young volunteers also contributed to environmental conservation, improvement and better access to clean, safe and affordable water. For the Kwale communities, the result is that they have been able to withstand the Horn of Africa crisis better than many others. They also have the opportunity to teach others about the vital role young people can play in disaster risk reduction.

Tangible results have also emerged from Red Cross Red Crescent youth-led disaster risk reduction programmes in other countries including Bangladesh, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kenya, Niger, Panama, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Togo, and Uganda.

These are just some examples of what can be achieved when children and young people  become aware of their responsibilities and  potential to take an active part in the global efforts to resolve serious problems faced by humanity.

The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies is calling on decision makers at all levels to recognize the vital role young people can and should play in reducing the risks associated with disasters. Specifically, we are calling on those who influence the funding, programme development and implementation of disaster risk reduction activities to recognize young people as powerful agents of change; encourage their unique abilities and skills such as intercultural communication and innovation in technology and thought; engage them in public awareness and education; involve them in decision making and planning at all levels; push hard for young people to have a stronger role in programme development and implementation in their own communities; and educate, elevate and empower young people by sharing responsibility and decision making in a genuine partnership.

These actions will undoubtedly help young people to do more, do better, and reach further in reducing disaster risks. Despite many challenges ahead of us, by working closely with children and young people, we can make communities all over the world safer and more resilient to disasters and their consequences. After all, the future is theirs.




Disaster Risk Reduction resources

More stories

Philippines - Red Cross intensifies water search and rescue training

A five-day water search and rescue training was given by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to ...

Preparing for Disasters: Our Collective Responsibilities

“It’s not enough to respond to disasters, we must reduce their impact and get people out of ...

Disasters are not a department: to reduce risk, we must empower communities

“Do something!” This simple message is the first one that governments hear when terrible events ...

Related links

Collaborating to tackle humanitarian consequences of climate-induced migration

One of the keys to protecting communities prone to climate-related hazards is integrating ...

IFRC: World’s youth are key to reducing the impacts of disasters

Children and young people have more influence in preparing their communities for disasters and ...

Map


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies . As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright