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School children in Nepal learn vital skills for when disasters strike

Nepal ranks as 11th in the world for vulnerability to earthquakes and a new programme being run in schools aims to help children and their communities be as prepared as possible.

Run in consultation with the National Society for Earthquake Technology, the one-year pilot programme began last year teaching life-saving techniques to students aged between 11-16 years. The idea is that the children can then transfer knowledge of their new skills to their families and communities.

To-date, the programme has been conducted in 50 schools across the Bhaktapur and Nuwakot districts. Volunteers from the Nepal Red Cross Society have gone into the schools to teach pupils first aid and triage techniques. The teachers also cover topics such as light search and rescue and basic preparedness in the home, such as keeping heavy objects on low shelves and making sure cupboards and fittings are securely fixed to walls.

Over the next three years, the organisers hope to extend the programme into over 200 other schools and also to cover the northern district of Rasuwa along the border with Tibet. This would mean 40,000 schoolchildren will have received the training. And if these children then pass on what they have learned to their parents, the knowledge will have reached around 250,000 people.

The first-aid skills are also useful for other kinds of emergencies, such as fires, landslides and flooding. Areas of Nepal are especially prone to flooding from the overflowing of glacial lakes. And with its mountainous terrain, active seismic zone and intense monsoon rains, many communities in Nepal are vulnerable to the affects of natural disasters. Through using schools which act as a focal point for local learning, the programme aims to make whole communities safer. Advice on how to evacuate public buildings such as schools and make them as safe as possible is also included.

IRIN spoke to one schoolboy who had attended the disaster-preparedness programme. Sabin Dulal is 15 years old and took part in the programme at his secondary school in the Bhaktapur district (30km from Kathmandu). The schoolboy had learned first aid techniques such as applying a tourniquet and said of his new skills, “if there is a disaster, I can immediately help myself and those around me”. The course also gives pupils confidence in their abilities to act and Sabin affirmed “now I know I can make a difference”.

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