THE 5.1-million Filipino children with disability are the most vulnerable from every calamity or emergency striking the country, an official of the United Nations Children’s Fund warned on Sunday.
In every emergency, 50 to 60 percent of those most affected were children because of their many limitations, Unicef country representative Lotta Sylwander said at the Emergency Preparedness Forum for Children and Youth with Disabilities at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
“Every emergency affects them more because they can’t get away,” Sylwander said.
She said children also become malnourished during a protracted emergency and get sick from the poor water and sanitation conditions.
“They also are unable to access schooling, and that psycho-social stress is also a serious factor for children in any emergency,” Sylwander said.
The forum, which was organized by SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, is a yearly event aimed at supporting communities, especially the most vulnerable groups like people with disability.
Bien Mateo, director of the SM Cares’ Program for People with Disability, said SM had been hosting the forum each year to make sure their voices were heard.
“We will be doing this again and again to reach out to more people, especially the likes of you who deserve to know more and gain more from such knowledge,” Mateo said.
He said children with disability were often excluded from emergency preparedness planning at all levels of the government, leaving them especially unprepared for emergencies.
He said people commonly assumed that parents would inform, warn, and protect children in the event of disaster, even though children were frequently apart from their parents when in school, daycare, or with their friends, Mateo said.
Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction Renato Solidum Jr. echoed Sylwander’s remarks. He said children would comprise the majority of those who would die should a 7.2 magnitude earthquake or the “Big One” hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
He said they had estimated that more than 48,000 people living in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan would be killed should the West Valley fault line move and cause a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
He underscored the need for a continuing education and preparation on disaster management at all levels. He said “disaster imagination” was also crucial in bringing about people’s resolve to prepare for any disaster.
“We need to develop disaster imagination so that we can adequately prepare. We need to imagine the scenarios, what will happen to us in case of emergencies like an earthquake, Solidum said.
“Unless we can imagine and unless we feel fear what can happen to us, we will not act to prepare for any disaster.”