Why are Children the Most Vulnerable Lot During Disasters

Sunday 3 September 2017
In the wake of every disaster, survivors struggle to rebuild from the disruption of their normal lives. Many have lost homes, loved ones, and their livelihoods. For children, the stress that a disaster creates is of lasting significance. Their symptoms, both physical and psychological, can linger more than adults. In this most formative time of their lives, they see stress, pain, and fear on the faces of their role models, their parents. Even during disasters, they are exposed not only to environmental dangers, but also to predators who want to convert them to child labourers and objects of abuse.

Civil society, government bodies and concerned individuals must unite to mitigate these risks.

1. Illness and injury

Cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, and many other diseases can run rampant due to contaminated, dirty water and unsanitary health conditions that prevail at camps. Children at relief camps need medical supervision and support to keep them safe, warm and dry. These diseases can malnutrition, compromising children’s immune systems, further exacerbating health conditions. Further, disasters also cause direct damage. Small scratches can cause infections like tetanus, and major calamities can cause muscular and skeletal damage in vulnerable children.

2. Malnutrition

One of the most apparent reasons for child vulnerability is malnutrition. Largely agrarian societies who lose access to their farms and cattle can find themselves in a nutrition crisis. In this time, ready access to meals, clean water, and milk are an essential component of relief supply, to prevent children from getting nutrient deficient. Supported by those who donate to NGO fundraising, rations are shipped to ensure a bare minimum survival and prevent starvation. However, for the long term, a complete diet rich in protein, fat, carbohydrates and essential minerals must be made available to prevent malnutrition.

3. Child abusers and traffickers

Child abuse and trafficking is another negative effect of disasters. Without proper security at relief sites, predators can harm or steal children, or bribe parent with substantial amounts of money to buy their children. In this time of desperation, their parents may resort to this measure. Children also aren’t strong enough to refuse this violation of their rights, especially after experiencing devastation, loss of life, homes, and schools. 

4. Damage to schools and recreation

Schools are destroyed and children lose their books and uniforms, demoralising their willingness to study. Without a sustained intervention by government bodies and NGOs, children may continue with formal schooling, choosing to drop out and enter child labour instead. With the psychological impact of the trauma of a natural calamity, children also lose the safe, recreational areas they need to mentally grow and develop.

5. Damage to livelihoods

India's The largely agrarian region are devastated after calamities, and thousands of hectares of standing crops are destroyed. Others who keep livestock are also be affected. Losing all hope, they may be tempted to sell their children into labour, or employ them in small menial work. To prevent these conditions, it is critical to donate money to ensure that these people don’t fall into destitution.

Conclusion

Expecting and new mothers also face the  risk of compromising the health of their infants. The role of maternal health is critical in influencing child health, and India cannot afford to thousands of children suffer due to a calamity. Save the Children, recognised as a leading force in rescue and rehabilitation, rapidly provides an emergency response, helping affected families achieve recovery to fight child mortality, and rebuild their lives. NGO employees, partners and volunteers can execute an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPP), and also runs child-centred and community-based preparedness programmes across communities.  Donors to NGO fundraising to receive donation tax rebate and do your bit.