‘If our schools are safe, we are safe’
Students in Pakistan are learning how to stay safe when disasters strike
Sanghar district is home to droughts, torrential rains, flooding, and a lack of resources. This makes responding to disasters in this remote area challenging.
Sanghar experienced severe flooding each year from 2010 through 2012. This destroyed roads, farms and markets and severely affected families’ ability to access food. After 3 successive floods, Sanghar was hit by a drought from 2013 through 2014. The recovery process from these weather extremes has been long. Communities are now shifting their focus towards preparing for disasters so they can minimize the damage they can cause.
Preparing for disasters begins at school
A school can be as simple as a tree with a few bushes for some shade, or a single building for students of all ages. But regardless of the weather and the condition of their classrooms, children walk to school each day in the heat so they can get an education.
The World Food Programme (WFP) launched a school safety programme to help children and their communities better prepare for disasters, and know how to react if one strikes. WFP is working closely with its cooperating partner, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) Pakistan. The programme has been made possible with generous support of the Government of Norway.
More than 3,000 students in 40 schools in Sanghar district are now aware of the disasters that could affect them. School management committees have also been trained so they can ensure the safety of adults and children in their community.
For 13 year old Venooud Kumar, the school safety training programme has changed the way he thinks about disasters.
“Our parents have told us about heat stroke, fires, and snake bites as threats to our life but the sessions at the school have made us learn what to do when we see fires or when there are floods. We know how to put bandage on someone if they are bleeding when there is a disaster.”
“We have learned that if our schools are safe, we are safe,” he added.
The school safety programme encourages students to draw a map of their school and their community, and to identify areas that are safe and unsafe for them when a disaster occurs. This will help them to plan ahead and to know what to do to reach safety.
Students are learning simple methods for seeking shelter including covering their heads if they experience an earthquake and how to avoid physical harm.
In disaster-prone countries like Pakistan, building peoples’ skills to respond to disasters, especially in rural areas, will benefit entire communities. WFP is committed to supporting communities in Pakistan to become more resilient to disasters and a changing climate.
Learn more about WFP’s work in Pakistan.
Story written by Mahira Afzal.