Today’s entry is a guest blog from Le Thi Bich Hang and Nguyen Van Gia, my colleagues in Save the Children’s Vietnam Country Office. I met Hang and Gia during my last trip to Vietnam when, alongside Country Director Huy Sinh Pham and some members of our Board of Trustees, we visited programs that help children prepare for disasters.
It was raining on the first days of the visit, although the rainy season ended long ago. It was still raining when we left Hanoi but the sun came out when we reached Yen Bai, a mountainous province in the northwestern region of Vietnam. We were very lucky to reach to the all of the places we planned to visit while the roads were still so muddy and rough.
Yen Bai province is home to thirty ethnic minorities. Due to geographic and demographic complexity, the province is still one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam and it is prone to natural disasters.
Save the Children started working in Vietnam in 1995 and since then has responded to 159 disasters from flooding in the Mekong to landslides in the highlands to cyclones in the central interior. And as in most disasters, poor families and especially poor children are often the ones most affected. That’s why Save the Children, with the help of European, Japanese and corporate donors, has started an innovative program to put children at the center of disaster preparedness. In Yen Bai, we saw this program in action.
We arrived in the Bao Dap primary school late in the morning of the first day. This area has frequently experienced sudden natural disasters included floods, landslides and whirlwinds. Though it was late in the morning, the students of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Club were still actively discussing natural disasters prevention (including definitions, causes, how to prevent them, and how to respond to them). This is a regular meeting of the school club where students gather to learn about and share different topics. Through a variety of activities like performances, games, role plays, and group discussions, they raise awareness about emergency preparedness among themselves and also in the community they are living in.
In the afternoon, we visited Hong Ca Primary School No. 2, where students were having a simulation for landslide evacuation and emergency health care. This practice is very important as the Hong Ca community is the most vulnerable to annual floods and flash floods, especially the area behind the Hong Ca primary school No. 2, where there is a very steep hillside that poses a high risk for landslides. The local government is reinforcing this to ensure the safety for the school, but it will take 3 years for the government to begin—so the students are doing what they can to prepare themselves and their community.
We were very impressed that the students in primary schools are not only well aware of disaster risks but really know what to do in case of disasters.
Kids who are prepared are safer and more equipped in the event of a disaster. My thanks to Hang, Gia and Huy for showing us how these programs are helping children in northwest Vietnam keep themselves and their communities safe. Cảm ơn bạn!