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:
- Facilitating restructuring of existing Provincial Coordination Units (PCUs) with involvement of education, child protection, and DRR related sectors
- Organizing meetings among PCU members to set up coordination structures and regulations
- Conducting stakeholder consultation workshops at provincial and district levels on integration of child-focused DRR in provincial and district plans
- Organizing dialogues between children and provincial/district policymakers on the role of children in DRR and child focused approaches to DRR
- 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
- 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:
- Conducting TOT courses and simulation exercises for PCU members and Commune Search and Rescue Teams
- Conducting training on child-focused HVCA and disaster preparedness planning for PCU members and community facilitators
- Organizing planning sessions with community members to develop child-focused community-based Disaster Preparedness Plans
- Equipping the Commune Search and Rescue Teams with rescue kits and first aid emergency kits to support disaster response
- Developing/Adapting training toolkits and IEC materials on DRR
- Conducting BCC training and organizing BCC campaigns at the community level
- 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:
- 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
- Implementing mitigation works in the most vulnerable communes, based on the CBDPPs
- Organizing consultations with children’s groups to get their feedback on relevance and quality of the mitigation works
- 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:
- Conducting workshops with school principals, teachers and education managers on child led disaster risk reduction (CLDRR)
- Adapting and producing facilitator’s guidelines/handbooks on child led disaster risk reduction
- Developing/Adapting and producing child-led disaster risk reduction instructional materials for children’s clubs
- Training teachers to be club facilitators on topics such as CLDRR approaches, participatory planning, BCC skills, first aid, evacuation procedures, etc.
- Identifying and training child leaders on DRR-related topics to support teachers in facilitating club sessions
- Setting up and organizing regular sessions of children’s clubs at schools
- Facilitating children’s groups to perform risk mapping for the local Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Plans
- Organizing consultations among children and school authorities for developing recommendations for Community-Based Disaster Preparedness Plans
- 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:
- Conducting orientation workshops for project partners at the provincial, district and commune levels on project objectives and approaches
- Conducting orientation for new partners on DIPECHO and project financial regulations
- Conducting a participatory survey at the community level to identify the most vulnerable communities for implementing the project
- Conducting training on community-based M&E for the project team and key local partners
- Setting up and maintaining M&E systems for the project with participation of local partners and children
- Organizing experience sharing workshops among partners, including children
- 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.