Disasters and emergencies each comprise unique and troubling entanglements of nature and culture, where e.g. climate change or social vulnerability greatly exacerbates how ‘natural’ hazard events are experienced. Cultural sensitivity is essential to effective disaster management and disaster risk reduction, yet disaster plans still largely view those affected as victims and as a homogenous group.
Unfortunately, (with a few exceptions), children and young people are virtually invisible as active, engaged participants in national and international emergency planning processes for disasters such as extreme weather/flooding/wildfires/earthquakes and other human influenced environmental crises.
Studies have shown that when they are mentioned, rather than seen as a resource, children are positioned as vulnerable recipients of aid and consequently are problematic. Understanding children’s perspectives has been demonstrated by organisations such as Save the Children, to be a vital part of the process of building resilience: children are community members in their own right, with potential to play an important role in shaping more effective responses to disaster at local and national levels.
CUIDAR’s participatory approach will encourage emergency plans which can build on the experience and meaning of events in children’s lives and are badly needed at a time of increased vulnerability to disasters worldwide, not least due to climate change and the increase in more extreme weather events across Europe. The vulnerabilities to these disasters are numerous, ranging from direct impacts to floods, heatwaves, water shortage and landslides, to ecosystem-mediated health impacts including altered infectious diseases, food shortages, mental health and cultural impoverishment through to indirect impacts including population displacement and conflict.