|IDNDR - Informs - Number 09-10, Special Edition, 1996 (IDNDR)|
|IDNDR Partners in action|
"Disaster prevention in schools and hospitals - it's also your business!" This was IDNDR's slogan in 1993. Since then, PAHO/WHO has strengthened its Health Facilities Mitigation Program (see previous story) throughout the region. Since the end of 1994, the Organization of American States (OAS) has promoted a Natural Hazards Vulnerability Reduction Program for the Education Sector in Central America. The initiative has been implemented by the OAS's Unit of Environment and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Unit of Social Development and Education and the financial support of the European Union Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
The program supports the efforts by the education sector of the Central American countries to incorporate natural hazard vulnerability reduction into the planning and implementation of educational facilities' construction, extension, remodeling and maintenance programs.
The Second Regional Meeting of the OAS/ECHO Natural Hazards Vulnerability Reduction Program for the Education Sector in Central America was held from 14 to 16 August 1996 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. At the meeting, national representatives discussed achievements in the various components of the education sector, and disseminated the results of the risk assessments of education facilities carried out in pilot regions in each country as a way of establishing a vulnerability profile of the risks schools face from natural hazards. The profiles will be the basis for reevaluating investment projects in schools.
Representatives of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama took part in the meeting. Also present were representatives of international organizations such as the Social Development and Education Unit of the OAS, the Educational and Cultural Coordinating Office for Central America (CECC), the Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the Regional Office for Latin America of the Department for Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations (DHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Regional Office of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
On the basis of a working document, "The Role of International Technical Cooperation and Funding Agencies in the Reduction of the Vulnerability of the Education Sector to Natural Hazards in Central America", presented by the OAS's Sustainable Development Unit, discussions centered on the actions required by the education sector to develop a comprehensive natural hazards vulnerability reduction program. The actions fit into the four main areas of the vulnerability reduction program: policies, planning, projects and preparedness. Four key actors were identified: (i) the Ministry of Education in each country, (ii) national institutions entrusted with the building of education facilities; (iii) regional organizations and (iv) international technical support and/or funding institutions.
Participants agreed on the following priority actions for the sector:
· Policies: Ministries of Education must recognize natural hazards vulnerability reduction as a key goal of the education sector, and appoint or strengthen National Advisory Committees. Regional organizations must promote resolutions that support Education Ministries in their efforts to incorporate into their curricula the question of disasters and the reduction of schools' vulnerability. International technical cooperation or funding institutions must ensure that natural hazards management and mitigation measures are a key component of their technical and funding support. International organizations must ensure that information about natural hazards is incorporated in the development and implementation of the projects they finance.
· Planning: The relevant institutions must be supported in order to set up or update information systems about education facilities that include natural hazards vulnerability assessments. National institutions entrusted with the building of education infrastructure must incorporate into their investment plans all relevant data about natural hazards. International technical cooperation and funding organizations must demand that information about the potential impact of natural hazards be included in all projects submitted for their approval.
· Investment Projects Ministries of Education and Public Works Departments in charge of education infrastructure must train their technical personnel so that projects meet widely accepted standards and criteria for vulnerability reduction as part of their normal planning. Regional institutions must facilitate bilateral, intra-regional and inter-regional exchange of technical experiences. International technical cooperation and funding organizations must support the development of the technical standards required to mitigate the impact of natural hazards on education infrastructure, as well as finance mitigation investment projects.
· Preparedness: Emergency preparedness and mitigation measures to reduce the nonstructural problems identified in education facilities must be incorporated into the broader emergency awareness and education programs in place in each country.
For more information, contact:
Pedro Bastidas, Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, OAS. 1889 F. Street, N.W., Room 340-V. Washington, D.C. 20006, USA. Fax: (1-202)458-3560.