Passage of measure to protect kids during calamities urged
With the threat of a massive earthquake striking the metropolis soon, as well as stronger typhoons hitting the country, a nongovernment organization advocating children’s rights has called on the government to fast-track the passage of a bill that would address the needs of a child affected by calamities.
Pending in Congress, House Bill No. 5285, the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, aims to create a comprehensive protection and emergency plan for children vulnerable to disasters.
Once passed into law, it would require the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education and the Office of Civil Defense, as well as other national agencies, “to increase protection and services for children before, during and after disasters.”
It would include an “improved family tracing for unaccompanied minors, data collection to identify children, child-focused training for first responders, the restoration of civil documents and limiting the use of schools as evacuation centers so the children could quickly resume their classes.”
Highlighting the importance of the bill sponsored by Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, Save the Children country director Ned Olney told the Inquirer in an interview on Sunday that of the more than 6,200 who died during Supertyphoon “Yolanda’s” onslaught in November 2013, “40 percent were children.”
He said that approximately six million children were affected by the typhoon.
And recently in Nepal, where two massive earthquakes claimed around 8,600 lives, Olney said their Nepal office reported that more than 20,000 classrooms were completely destroyed, while another 25,000 either incurred minor or major damage. It also quoted a UN report that said “about 1.7 million children were affected by the earthquakes.”
“Children are universally vulnerable. We [need to have] a different approach to children because you can’t treat children with the same laws and rules as you would adults,” Olney said.
He said that while this piece of legislation—which he added would be a first in Asia—could no longer help the victims of Yolanda, it would be a “proactive approach and game changer for children in the Philippines in future emergencies.”
“It’s [mankind’s] moments of tragedy [that] inspire legislative transformation,” he said, pointing out that the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1924, years after World War I ended.
Once passed into law, Olney said the use of schools as evacuation centers during calamities would be limited to around 15 days.
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