Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in Action
Preparedness in LAC: A Regional Strategy of UNICEF
UNICEF highlights the fact that existing inequities and disparities in Latin America, due to the complexity of structural causes that exacerbate poverty, increase the vulnerability of children and women in the presence of disasters.
In the context of a post conflict Central America, the effects of drought, for example, cannot be considered in an isolated manner from the current coffee crises, or the impact of earthquakes and the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Mitch.
Definition of this strategy:
these lines, the strategy defines the following geopolitical areas:
also establishes the following priority sectors:
Along these lines, we found in CLAMED (The Latin American Center for Medicine in Disasters), located in Cuba, enriching capacity, proven experience and a number of lessons learned in the Latin American context. From our viewpoint, there was a need to disseminate and democratize this information.
UNICEF aspires to establish a network of young doctors throughout LAC. In order to assist both children and adolescents during disasters, UNICEF expects to build a professional base with a specialization in children’s rights.
In the field of human resources, UNICEF also helped constitute a listing of 120 experts in CEPREDENAC (Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America). It is important to have trained personnel in LAC and having this listing on CEPREDENAC’s webpage has represented a significant help.
While developing its staff, UNICEF has given priority to the subject of humanitarian principles. We have institutional training manuals for our trainers, so that they can subsequently disseminate this process. We are also very interested in promoting the respect for human rights, in particular the rights of children and women victims before, during and after disaster situations.
We recognize that affected people are entitled to a number of rights, but not only as victims. We believe that if they receive support in a timely and efficient manner, they will be capable of recovering both their communities and themselves from the destruction caused by natural phenomena.
We also have training manuals on emergency preparedness and we have translated and adapted educational kits, taking into account the particularities of LAC.
The regional office of UNICEF is now located in Panama. Various regional offices are also located in this country and, therefore, we decided to establish links and hold memorandums of agreements with the International Federation of the Red Cross, PMA, the UNHCR and CATHALAC, among others.
This has been a rewarding process. For instance, we were able to welcome and host the PMA, the UNHCR and OCHA in our offices, especially during the stage in which these humanitarian agencies were establishing their own regional offices.
In order to face potential emergencies in LAC, an initiative was established to keep essential supplies in Panama, jointly with the International Federation of the Red Cross. The main storage facilities of UNICEF are located in Copenhagen and, therefore, it takes a long time for shipments to arrive in LAC. Costs increase if supplies are air shipped. To date, the existence of the Pan-American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) has facilitated logistic regional coordination in disaster situations.
An articulated strategy for preparedness and response has been developed with the UNHCR and PMA. For instance, joint missions have been sent to countries at risk.
Via the networks established on the Internet that observe hurricanes and tropical storms in the Caribbean and Central America, UNICEF’s Knowledge Center maintains a daily indirect monitoring observatory. The Emergency Unit operating in TACRO is linked to OPSCEN, an Emergency Observatory located in NY/EMOPS. They also analyze reports from secondary sources and warnings issued within 24 hours to the offices regarding the potential impact of natural and social phenomena.
In addition, UNICEF, along with CEPREDENAC, carried out an inventory of hydro-meteorological early warning systems in Central America. This is intended to collect, at both community and institutional levels, the most relevant experiences in the field of early warnings. Unfortunately, we discovered that there is still much to do to connect these two levels of systems and achieve a true local prevention process.
One of the most rewarding actions of this strategy for disaster preparedness has been the development of the “Riskland” magazine, which helps children prepare for disasters through simple explanations about natural phenomena. By using recreational methods children are able to draw vulnerability maps of their communities, schools and homes, and therefore efficiently prevent potential accidents and deaths caused by disasters.
The partnership established with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) has allowed UNICEF to reach some 30 countries in LAC. This recreational tool has already been translated into Spanish, English, Portuguese and Creole
It is thanks to this strategy that we can affirm that UNICEF in LAC is better prepared to meet its mandate, which specifically draws on the Preamble of the UN Convention on the rights of the child, stating that children should be the first ones in receiving assistance during emergency situations.