IFRC report calls for closer attention to the needs of children in climate-related disasters in the Caribbean
by the IFRC
(This story is an IFRC press release issued in Kingston, Jamaica last month.)
Adolescents overwhelmingly feel they do not have the information needed to be safe from potential violence, abuse, and exploitation in climate-related disasters.
This is one of the main findings of We Need to Do Better: Climate Related Disasters, Child Protection and Localizing Action in the Caribbean, a recent IFRC study.
The report has revealed that even though climate-related disasters affect each person in the region, children are particularly at risk. They make up a large portion of the population of the Caribbean and are most vulnerable to encountering violence, abuse, and exploitation in disaster settings, while systems to protect them do not always work.
The study also highlights that there are no specific laws in place to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation when disasters happen.
Gurvinder Singh, the IFRC’s Child Protection Senior Adviser and one of the authors of the report, said: “While children potentially have great leadership and innovation capabilities, unfortunately their voices are rarely being sought out or heard.
“Furthermore, there is a huge deficit in meaningful opportunities for children to be engaged in decisions that affect them.
“This is especially prominent in the stages of preparing for and responding to disasters. Adolescents believe that even if they do participate, their opinions may not be taken seriously by adults.”
By putting the voices, perspectives, and ideas of children at the forefront, the report seeks to understand the generally unexplored relationships between climate-related disasters and children’s concerns around violence, abuse, exploitation, and mental health challenges.
It also sends a warning to governments and civic organizations to play a more active role in the promotion of and respect for the rights of the child, especially with regards to the issue of child abuse and the need for urgent effective prevention programmes.
The report seeks to understand the
generally unexplored relationships between
climate-related disasters and children’s concerns
Ariel Kestens, IFRC Head of Delegation for the Dutch- and English-speaking Caribbean, said: “It is critical that governments enhance domestic laws, invest in child protection systems, improve local coordination, train local responders, include protection and climate change in school curriculum, and collect sex-, age- and disability-disaggregated data in disaster responses.
“The IFRC network across the Caribbean stands ready to support them to continue striving to meet the best interests of each child affected by more and more frequent, and destructive climate-related disasters.”
The report also recommends practical actions for the humanitarian sector, such as designing child-friendly communications, implementing community feedback mechanisms, including child protection in anticipatory action, integrating child protection across preparedness, assessments and planning, and creating spaces for children and adults to engage, support one another and find viable solutions to protection risks.
The study was based on discussions and an online survey with 198 adolescents aged 14 to 17 years in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, interviews with 30 adults from different disaster and child protection agencies, and background research.
It is part of the “We Need to Do Better” campaign by the IFRC to enhance protection of children in climate-related disasters.
Vilet and Enose, seen here with their children Bianca, 10, and Lisha, 2, lost contact as they were evacuated separately from Abaco island ahead of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 – thought to be the worst disaster in the modern history of the Bahamas. Red Cross volunteer Janet Lundy used the ‘restoring family links’ service to help them find each other. (Photo: John Engedal Nissen/IFRC)