Thursday, February 7, 2008

Disaster preparedness Activity book for children

Rest assured, if fire breaks or flooding strikes, the children of Baghdabra village have in their mind, what it takes to protect themselves – credit to World Vision who trained the community and even produced a children’s Guide Book on disaster preparedness.

This is part of a World Vision’s bigger initiative, the Community Based Disaster Preparedness Programme to help the community in Malda district, West Bengal to better prepare for disasters and manage them.

From mock drill and rescue operations to first aid and communications training, all children, women and men took part to learn how to negotiate with all kinds of potential disasters that can likely hit their villages. The government has given a thought to this and helped World Vision in many occasions too. 'We want this entire initiative to be child focused – because in times of disaster, the children and women are the most vulnerable', said Jyoti Mukhia – Programme Manager Malda project.

World Vision, through the Malda Area Development Programme is working to further build the capacity of people here, by initiating a village task force responsible to rapidly assess and respond appropriately in the wake of a disaster. 'People especially children have been very responsive – and we expect better results in the coming days', said Jyoti.

World Vision is engaging teachers and other community based volunteers to spread the word of caution to schoolchildren on how to prepare for a disaster. Children like eight year old Sunil, is able to demonstrate how to respond when their body is on fire, 'If you are catching fire, roll your body on the ground', instructed Sunil. 'When the earth is shaking, run to the open space', said Sunil’s classmate – Saikul.

Other finding suggests that children learned a great deal from the Guide Book, so much so that they are starting to share what they learned with their illiterate parents. 'A good way to influence parents', observed Jyoti.

Children learned quickly through reading and coloring the book, role-play, discussion and listening to their teachers.

The present status reflects people’s lack of concern and the presence of withdrawal attitude in relation to disaster preparedness. 'People tend to think that villages here are not disaster prone, so disaster management is not a felt-need', said Jyoti.

India’s history reveals that many states do not take disaster preparedness seriously, except for states hard hit by major disasters that killed thousands of people.

World Vision has at least 35 members in each of the 16 villages where this project has started. 'And we are expanding our awareness programs keeping in mind the need to equip and prepare children', said Jyoti. The plan to teach more teachers how to train children is underway, and World Vision has seen positive response from this model. 'The book is useful for us teachers, it is teaching us to protect the children during a disaster and teaching children not to panic', said Sushmita Berra, a teacher of Shampur Mother Teressa Village School.

Villages in Malda district will have their own pre-positioning unit including non-perishable items and they are adding more people to their key contact list. Almost all villages in the district are flood prone and earthquake prone besides small disasters but should a disaster happen? Families and their children are better equipped to help themselves.

( Disaster preparedness Activity book for children)

Nutrition helps children to live normal life in Bengal

It was drizzling and two-year-old Amit and four-year-old Menoka ran out of their house responding to their friends’ call, and running in the rain is one thing their mother would never allow them to do in the past but today 'They are healthy, let them run', says the mother.

This is an outcome of World Vision’s three months old nutrition programme focusing on children like Amit who are below two years of age, very unhealthy before but is living like a normal child today.

Amit’s village Bhujubita in West Bengal’s Malda district has twenty-five households, all of them facing the risk of food shortages and their children have been mal-nourished since birth.

Soon after Amit was born, he was never in good health and can easily catch mild fever or diarrhea even at the slightest change of climate. Burdened by poverty and the lack of work in the village forced their father to leave home working in a distant town to provide for his family – yet this move made a little difference.

Of all the diseases that sickly Amit had to face in the past, last year’s experience of severe malaria attack almost took his life. 'He survived but became very weak after that', says his mother. A few months later World Vision started a nutrition programme and Amit who was skin and bone then, was admitted to the Early Childhood Care and Development Center.

Amit’s three months in the center helped him to gain more than 1 kilogram of body weight. 'He was 12 kgs three months ago, now he weighs 13 kgs plus', smiled the mother, Phoolky Tudu. Phoolky also said that after Amit was enrolled in the center – 'he seldom falls sick'.

Amit’s eldest brother Debu is a World Vision sponsored child and through World Vision sponsorship programme his family and his village have jointly benefit from various development and health programmes conducted in the area.

The nutritious food given at the center includes high-caloried nuts and biscuits, puff rice, jaggery and other protein mixtures. As the World Vision volunteer spelled out the names of the food items, the mother paused and interjected, 'We can’t afford to buy this kind of food'.

What World Vision is giving is not much, but compared to the poverty seen in the area even a minimal help such as this, seemed to still make a difference.

World Vision’s presence in Bhujubita and the nearby villages has opened the eyes of many staff members who saw the need to arrest the problem of mass mal-nutrition, therefore, the organization started to respond to this problem. World Vision has opened Early Childhood Care and Development Centers in 28 villages. 'We want to cover 50 villages because the need is there, but there is not enough resources', said Jyoti Mukhia - Programme Manager. It is mid day, and the day care center is full of noise and lively. Here children are given nutrition intake, taught nursery rhymes, alphabets and play a lot of games. 'The children like the center so much so, that every morning they would tell their parents to take them there', said Jyoti Mukhia – Malda Programme Manager.

The center also serves as a village baby-day-care where mothers can leave their young ones and go to the field to work. “It is not easy for me to leave my baby there, but I can see that the care taker really take care of my daughter – she is well fed and taught well, so I trust them”, said Mando another mother in the village. (Nutrition for life/ Healthy start for Amit)

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