By Chito Chavez
A member of an international cause-oriented group said the country’s estimated 5.1 million Filipino children with disabilities are the most vulnerable to calamities or emergency incidents in the Philippines.
At the recent Emergency Preparedness Forum for Children and Youth with Disabilities Lotta Sylwander, country representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that children with disabilities will be the most affected in every calamity that hits the Philippines.
She noted in every emergency 50 to 60 percent of those who are most affected are children because of their many limitations.
“Every emergency affects them more so because they lose their lives because they can’t get away. They get malnourished during a protracted emergency and get unhealthy from 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.
Citing the need to protect people’s rights, the activity which was organized by SM Cares is a yearly event aimed at supporting communities, especially the most vulnerable groups like the PWDs, become more resilient and prepared in times of disasters.
Sylwander’s statement was also echoed by Dr. Renato Solidum Jr., Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction of the Department of Science and Technology.
Solidum said many of those who will perish should a 7.2 magnitude earthquake or the “Big One” hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces are children.
Solidum said they have estimated that more than 48,000 people living in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan will be killed should the West Valley fault line move and cause a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
Solidum stressed it is for this reason that continuing education and preparation on disaster management should be carried out in all levels especially those in the most vulnerable groups.
He added that “disaster imagination” is also crucial to bring 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 cases of emergencies like an earthquake so that we can plan and prepare accordingly. Unless we can imagine and unless we feel fear of what can happen to us, we will not act to prepare for any disaster,” Solidum said.
Also present during the forum was survival expert Dr. Ted Esguerra, from the International Disaster Response Network, who gave tips and on-the-spot demonstrations on how CWDs can cope in times of emergencies.
Esguerra said that for a country that is visited by calamities and disasters every year, disaster preparedness should be a way a life for every Filipino.
Hundreds of CWDs and their parents, members of PWD organizations and learning institutions and representatives from the Office of the Civil Defense, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and security personnel of SM Supermalls also attended the event.
Engr. Bien Mateo, director of the SM Cares’ Program for Persons with Disabilities said SM has been doing the forum each year to make sure their voices are heard in DRR initiatives.
“This sharing of know-how and strategy to face the inevitable that would test our mettle. 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 in such knowledge,” Mateo said.
Sylwander and Solidum both lauded SM Cares for initiating the forum on CWDs saying that it is long overdue initiative since the said group is not often included in disaster risk management.
“Children with disabilities are often excluded from emergency preparedness planning at all levels of government, leaving children with disabilities especially unprepared for emergencies. DRR people commonly assume that parents will inform, warn and protect children in the event of disaster, even though children are frequently apart from their parents when in school, daycare, or with their friends,” Mateo said.
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Mandanas first filed a petition on this IRA share of LGUs during the Arroyo presidency and, as a Batangas congressman, filed another case before the High Tribunal under the Aquino administration calling for the immediate release of the IRA backpay of local governments.
“As LPP chairman at that time, I fully supported this initiative by Gov. Mandanas and the late Gov. Garcia to ensure the automatic appropriation of the IRA under the national budget,” Villafuerte said.