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Natural Resource and Disaster Risk Management

Supporting the Role of Schools in Disaster Risk Reduction (SRSD)

September 2010 - August 2013
Qatar Foundation - Reach Out to Asia (ROTA)
Far West (Kailali District, Seti Zone, 75 schools in 11 VDCs)
34,750 (34,750 students, 750 teachers from 75 schools) school beneficiaries, 129,000 community beneficiaries (in fact these are also direct beneficiaries, but at a secondary - community - level)
Natural Resource and Disaster Risk Management, Youth Engagement
Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS-Kailali)/ Junior Red Cross Circles (JYCs); School Management Committees (SMCs); the project also entails significant collaboration with Action Aid Nepal

The Challenge

Fragile, variable geo-climatic conditions and its young geology have made Nepal susceptible to various natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, windstorms, droughts and other ecological hazards. Poverty, physical isolation, lack of education and awareness in planning and preparedness, low levels of infrastructure and capacity development, unplanned settlements, and limited sustained service delivery further exacerbate the country's vulnerability to disasters. With regard to relative vulnerability to earthquakes and floods, Nepal stands at 11th and 30th respectively among 198 countries. In an average day in Nepal, at least two people die due to natural disaster (mainly floods, drought, landslides and earthquake); in an average year, 13,000 people die from natural disasters (NSET Report on Disasters 2008).

One of the schools in KailaliOne of the schools in Kailali

Children are among the most vulnerable population groups in times of disaster. Factors such as age, knowledge, and physical strength affect their ability to cope and survive in a disaster context. Children have particular needs that must be met for their healthy growth and development, and these needs can be compromised by acute disasters. Aside from being killed or injured in a disaster, the loss of livelihoods for their families can lead to homelessness and extreme poverty, or can cause parents to remove children from school so that they can contribute to family incomes. Exposure to disaster can be a traumatic experience for children, affecting future development potential.

The need for improved disaster preparedness in general and for an emphasis on children within disaster preparedness interventions in particular, is evident in the Kailali district in the Far Western Region of Nepal. The Mohana and Kandara River and its tributaries, the Kataini, Guraha and Khutiya, regularly inundate adjacent communities and erode riverbanks and productive land. They cause loss life and crops, arable land, and loss of key assets such as livestock and housing. Flooding damages infrastructure, including roads, irrigation canals, schools and health posts, and makes accessing clean drinking water sources and sanitation services difficult. Flooding also separates children from schools, and damages school equipment such as books, uniforms, and school infrastructure. The Nepal Red Cross Society has estimated that 150 schools in the district are in a position of relatively serious disaster risk, mostly from floods and landslides.

The Opportunity

Mercy Corps Nepal has a significant track record of disaster risk reduction projects in the Kailali District. Between November 2007 and September 2010, partnering with the Nepal Red Cross Society's (NRCS) Kailali District Chapter, Mercy Corps implemented various disaster risk reduction projects, most notably Kailali Disaster Risk Reduction Initiatives (November 2007 - April 2009) and Kailali Disaster Risk Reduction Initiatives II (June 2009 - September 2010). These initiatives included school level disaster risk reduction components in sixteen schools, which also contributed to broader community-based DRR efforts near the target schools. The enthusiasm and optimism of the students engaged in these initiatives, and well as the effectiveness of school-based DRR to promote both safer schools and more resilient communities, convinced Mercy Corps that further investments in school-based DRR are warranted.

Student showcased DRR through paintingStudent showcased DRR through painting
Students performing first aid simulation in schoolStudents performing first aid simulation in school

Children in Nepal continue to be perceived as mere victims of disasters rather than active agents of change who can make a real difference in terms of disaster preparedness and mitigation, both within their schools and households and within their broader communities. In line with this, and commensurate with the third section of the Hyogo Framework for Action, Mercy Corps Nepal recognizes the need to prioritize children and ensure their participation in disaster risk reduction activities.

In an effort to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters by contributing to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, Mercy Corps is working in partnership with Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS - Kailali) to make schools in high-risk disaster areas safer, enabling them to act as a locus for disaster risk reduction in broader communities while improving the overall educational environment in schools.

The initiative has three objectives:
1. Enhance knowledge, capacity and awareness of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) education for children, parents and teachers
The project is carrying out both baseline and end line studies to establish whether school-based DRR initiatives have resulted in positive changes in DRR knowledge, attitudes and practices, as well as positive changes in the overall education environment. The other activities include capacity building of teachers and resource persons on DRR and child-centered teaching and learning techniques; first aid and search & rescue trainings; formation of Junior Red Cross (JYC) circles; capacity building of JYCs in the areas of DRR, leadership, and community based early warning systems; formation and training of parents groups to advocate for a safe and productive school and community environment; establishment of school emergency funds; and, finally enhancement of school libraries, with a focus on DRR IEC materials.

2. Design and promote "safe school" standards by training and mobilizing parents, students, and teachers to champion school-based DRR
Led by JYCs, disaster preparedness planning is being carried out at the school level, resulting in "School Safety Plans". The project is also supporting school communities to implement these plans by equipping schools with first aid and search and rescue equipment; improving basic infrastructure facilities; disseminating DRR information through extra-curricular activities such as street dramas and art/ essay competitions; linking schools to early warning systems; and, conducting disaster response simulations. JYCs will also gather in two District Jamborees during the project period to share best practices.

3. Advocate for the integration of "safe school" standards and DRR curriculum into district-level education policies
The project is working with key Government of Nepal and civil society stakeholders to design "Safe School" standards, to advocate for the broad adoption of these standards at the district level, and to encourage the inclusion of DRR curriculum in schools. Working together with Action Aid Nepal, the project will also endeavor to design a "Safe Schools" strategy with the Ministry of Education, and will link with the District Education Office to garner support for the implementation of School Safety Plans.