Increasing reach of community-based child-focused disaster preparedness and response


Over the past few years, natural disasters affecting Vietnam have grown increasingly frequent and destructive. In 2007, a series of typhoons, in particular typhoons Pabuk and Lekima, brought torrential rains and subsequent flooding, which ravaged communities across northern and central Vietnam. Cyclical monsoons and floods in the Mekong delta and other coastal areas have also become stronger, lasted longer, and come irregularly. According to data from the Disaster Management Centre, disasters in 2007 affected over 3,176,000 people along the Vietnamese coastline and upland areas, causing an estimated $719 billion in damages. The selected provinces (Thanh Hoa, Yen Bai and Tien Giang) are among those frequently hit by such disasters.

At all levels, preparedness measures for local communities are mostly under discussion, or at best accepted in principle rather than being truly prioritized actions. There the Government of Vietnam, for example, regulated that for each disaster prone commune should set up a rescue team. Most of the teams are heavily dependent on the external assistance of members of the local Red Cross. These teams, however, do not participate in the planning process and therefore their experiences are not fully integrated. During the previous phase of the project, Save the Children supported training for local trainers at the provincial and district partnership levels. It will be beneficial and practical to have groups of trained people at the commune level in order to involve them in the planning and implementation of the DRR work.

Many communities also do not include child-focused components within their disaster preparedness and response initiatives. In particular, there is a greater need to promote the participation of children in the community risks reduction process, as well as during community-based processes such as the Hazards Vulnerabilities and Capacities Assessment (HVCA) to ensure that all plans are developed with the protection and care of children in mind, to raise the needs and concerns of children during disaster situations and to enable children to play an active role in community risk reduction. This could significantly improve children’s protection and safe access to basic support and services in emergencies, as well as potentially reduce risks for other vulnerable community members.  In addition, there is very limited participation of the local community and especially of children in selecting and monitoring mitigation work, both in small scale and larger scale mitigation projects.

Activities to strengthen mechanisms at all levels in policy and planning to reduce vulnerabilities of children during disasters included:

  1. Facilitating restructuring of existing Provincial Coordination Units (PCUs) with involvement of education, child protection, and DRR related sectors
  2. Organizing meetings among PCU members to set up coordination structures and regulations
  3. Conducting stakeholder consultation workshops at provincial and district levels on integration of child-focused DRR in provincial and district plans
  4. Organizing dialogues between children and provincial/district policymakers on the role of children in DRR and child focused approaches to DRR
  5. Developing advocacy strategies on child focused approaches to DRR, inclusion of education and child protection sectors, and promotion of children’s participation in emergency preparedness and response
  6. Documenting and sharing project best practices and lesson learnt for policy advocacy work


Activities to increase capacity of local government and  communities to plan for and cope with disasters included:

  1. Conducting TOT courses and simulation exercises for PCU members and Commune Search and Rescue Teams
  2. Conducting training on child-focused HVCA and disaster preparedness planning for PCU members and community facilitators
  3. Organizing planning sessions with community members to develop child-focused community-based Disaster Preparedness Plans
  4. Equipping the Commune Search and Rescue Teams with rescue kits and first aid emergency kits to support disaster response
  5. Developing/Adapting training toolkits and IEC materials on DRR
  6. Conducting BCC training and organizing BCC campaigns at the community level
  7. Organizing study visits for local partner staff and programme staff to Thailand for reflection and sharing on child focused-DRR experiences


Activities to create protective environments for children through risk mitigation interventions created included:

  1. Commune meetings for children and adults to suggest and agree together on specific mitigation works which will help to protect children at times of disasters
  2. Implementing mitigation works in the most vulnerable communes, based on the CBDPPs
  3. Organizing consultations with children’s groups to get their feedback on relevance and quality of the mitigation works
  4. Supporting communities, including participation of children, in developing the Operation and Maintenance Regulations for safe spaces and small-scale mitigation works


Activities to promote children’s involvement as local actors in disaster risks reduction planning and implementation included:

  1. Conducting workshops with school principals, teachers and education managers on child led disaster risk reduction (CLDRR)
  2. Adapting and producing facilitator’s guidelines/handbooks on child led disaster risk reduction
  3. Developing/Adapting and producing child-led disaster risk reduction instructional materials for children’s clubs
  4. Training teachers to be club facilitators on topics such as CLDRR approaches, participatory planning, BCC skills, first aid, evacuation procedures, etc.
  5. Identifying and training child leaders on DRR-related topics to support teachers in facilitating club sessions
  6. Setting up and organizing regular sessions of children’s clubs at schools
  7. Facilitating children’s groups to perform risk mapping for the local Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Plans
  8. Organizing consultations among children and school authorities for developing recommendations for Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Plans
  9. Supporting children’s groups to conduct BCC activities among their peers in schools and communities


Activities to improve quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of program implementation included:

  1. Conducting orientation workshops for project partners at the provincial, district and commune levels on project objectives and approaches
  2. Conducting orientation for new partners on DIPECHO and project financial regulations
  3. Conducting a participatory survey at the community level to identify the most vulnerable communities for implementing the project
  4. Conducting training on community-based M&E for the project team and key local partners
  5. Setting up and maintaining M&E systems for the project with participation of local partners and children
  6. Organizing experience sharing workshops among partners, including children
  7. Collaborating with the media and providing journalists with awareness coaching to better advocate and promote child-focused DRR and project results.

Funded by the ECHO Disaster Preparedness Program, the project lasted for 15 months from October 2008-December 2009.

Key local stakeholders of this project included the children and adults in 27 selected communes, as well as local schools and government authorities. Children in the selected communes are interested in organizing themselves into groups or clubs to play a more active role in planning for and coping with disasters. Local adults from the 27 selected communes will be involved in the project as members of commune rescue teams, BCC communicators, and DRR planners. Local schools and the education system have always been involved in the emergency response work, especially in organizing evacuations for the children and their families. Local authorities at commune, district and provincial level have generally high commitments to disaster preparedness and response.


The Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control, a national body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), is the central body of the Vietnamese Government in charge of disaster preparedness and response for the nation. Its responsibilities are to provide general coordination and disaster risk reduction policies to provincial partners and implementing organizations in provinces. The project implementation phase successfully established a more decentralized structure by establishing provincial and district project coordination units. Role distribution was therefore different from previous phases. DMC/CCFSC was less involved and less active than previous project phases. It has reduced the number of staff assigned to the project from three in previous project phases to one in this phase. DMC/CCFSC’s role was more focused on overall monitoring and on organising national events rather than on activity implementation at local level. The project has facilitated the setting up of coordination structures and regulations in the three project provinces. In each province, Project Coordination Units were established at the provincial, district and commune levels. Responsibilities for Project Coordination Units at each level were clearly defined and used as guidance throughout the project implementation.
This project addresses community-based and child-focused perspectives and by combining non-structural and structural components. Planning exercises with simple participatory planning methods and tools were considered very relevant as they allowed larger participation of the community members, including children and as they allowed to develop plans on the basis of concrete situation of the local communities. In terms of non-structural components, the project has highlighted the importance of putting in place mechanisms to plan actions and reduce children’s vulnerabilities, improving local capacity to develop disaster response and preparedness plans and promoting community and child participation. In this project, children and community members continued to have space for active and dynamic participation in project implementation and monitoring. In term of structural components, the project has allocated resources to support small mitigation works. These works were part of the locally developed action plans. They were jointly identified by local community members, local authorities and children through a participatory planning process.
Internal reviews were conducted using a combination of secondary data review and document analysis, interviews with Save the Children emergency program and support staff, and interviews with key local partners from the Disaster Management Centre, Vietnam Red Cross, and the newly restructured Department of Children’s Care and Protection. The review also involved a field visit to seven communes in which meetings were held with district officials, commune-level leaders, and community people. Observation was also used when visiting the communes, with particular attention given to evidence of mitigation work undertaken and signs of present, ongoing, and past capacity building and training. Target beneficiaries, partners, commune representatives, and children were involved in project conception, design, and development through many activities, including: • Orientation meetings and surveys at the beginning of the current project enabled community people and children to actively participate in identifying their needs, vulnerabilities and capacities, especially during the selection process for the most suitable communities to implement the project. • Information was collected through the final experience sharing workshop of the previous project. The workshop addressed the strengths and weaknesses of the project and provided feedback on future steps. Over 130 participants attended the workshop, including the government coordinating agency in disaster management, the NGO coordinating agency, commune leaders, disaster management practitioners, community members, and children from the project provinces, in addition to the district, provincial, and central partners. • Meetings and dialogues were held with the Disaster Management Centre, the Central Committee for Flood and Storm Control, the Vietnam Red Cross, and members of the Save the Children Emergency Working Group.


The main impact of the project was the change in local capacity to prepare for and to cope with disaster situation. This change was proven by the fact that at the end of the project, each project commune had successfully developed a realistic and practical community-based and child-focused disaster preparedness and response plan. As a result of a long process of capacity building, the disaster response and preparedness plans were the sign of positive impacts on different groups of beneficiaries who have directly or indirectly participated in developing these plans. The awareness of children having rights to survival, protection, development and participation was very clear at all levels from central level partners to local community members, including children. In practices, this awareness has been translated by concrete actions towards addressing children’s rights in the process of developing and implementing disaster preparedness and response plans. Teachers focused on facilitating children’s participation rather than imposing their ideas. Adults in communities recognised that children might identify issues that adults might not. Local authorities were aware that children were among most vulnerable groups in the communities and that they would need to involve children in disaster response and preparedness exercises to make sure that actions identified to protect the community also meet children’s needs and rights. Last but not least, children themselves understood their rights and have actively participated in the project activities to realise these rights. When the project began, there were doubts about the need to be child-focused as people thought that what has been done for the community as a whole also benefited the children. However during the course of disaster response and preparedness planning process, concrete examples showed that children have raised issues that were not identified by adults and that addressing these issues would also benefit the wider community. There is now a common agreement that it would be useful to pay attention to children’s own issues and address them as part of community action plan. A very strong impact on local community members was the change in their perception of disaster risks and related actions. They understood that they should not passively wait until disaster occurs to react but they could and should take steps forward to prevent and mitigate disaster effects. They understood that in doing so, they could minimise disaster-related damages to humans, to properties and assets. From a general point of view, local authorities’ ability to deal with disaster has been improved. As administration, they are now aware of the need to well carry out HCVA exercises in order to get knowledge of hazard threats to the communities and available capacities and resources that they can mobilise to deal with these threats. After training provided by the project and with support from project trainers, representatives of local authorities who attended training were given the responsibility to organise, coordinate and integrate available capacities and resources to assess disaster situation (type of disasters, possible impacts…), to carry out community-based and child-focused disaster response and preparedness planning as well as to implement developed plans and guide local community members to develop actions to cope with the situation. During this process, representatives from local authorities have showed that they were able to take on the assignment. The case study mentioned above showed that local authorities were able to listen to children, evaluate the situation and make relevant decisions to improve actions so that they could ensure that the action implemented was pertinent to the local situation and local population. The same case was also a good example of local authorities’ ability to mobilise local contributions as well as to raise external matching funds in order to complete the construction work. Project activities have also resulted in positive impacts on local community’s knowledge of disaster preparedness. At least those who were involved in planning have gone through the whole process from collecting information to developing risk maps and response and preparedness plans. The fact that risk maps were displayed in public places has also benefited the wider communities. Discussions with local community members showed that they have got better knowledge of children’ rights, of locally available capacities and resources to deal with disasters. On the basis of this awareness and knowledge, they were able to contribute their ideas and feedback to the local disaster and preparedness plans. Being involved in the implementation process of actions as defined in action plans, local community members have improved their ability to monitor the work, evaluate and provide feedback to improve actions. Children form the main target group of beneficiaries of the project. Interviews and group discussion with children showed that children’s knowledge and capacities in the field of disaster response and preparedness have strongly increased. When asked, children in the project commune were able to name all kinds of hazards that might threaten their communities in general and their lives in particular. They were also able to develop a risk map and identify on the map as well as in the field where the risk areas and safe places are and take appropriate actions in the event of disasters.