Georgetown, Guyana – (February 6, 2019) The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) in collaboration with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Belize National Emergency Management Organisation, this morning, opened a national consultation for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Actors in Guyana, which seeks to develop a Protocol for the Integrated Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations. This Protocol will support national emergency units to ensure that the needs of children and adolescents are met in emergency response strategies and programmes.
The participants of the consultation are drawn from UNICEF Guyana, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Social Protection and other agencies which have roles to play in disaster response and management.
Director General (Ag) of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, in his opening remarks, said it is no secret that Guyana, like many of any other Caribbean states, has increasing vulnerability and exposure to natural and anthropogenic hazards, compounded by the threats of climate change and emerging threats such as oil spills.
He noted that these hazards do not impact every individual equally, and some groups, due to unique characteristics, are especially vulnerable and suffer greater impacts in disaster situations. Women, persons with disabilities, children and young people are among these vulnerable groups, and are oftentimes susceptible to highest levels of injury, displacement and disruption when a hazard strikes, Lieutenant Colonel Craig said.
“The CDC recognises that if we are to achieve our mandate of building resilience across Guyana, we must identify and address the peculiar situations of these vulnerable groups. We believe that the protocol for the integrated protection of children and adolescents in disaster situations, which is being developed by our regional partners, is a useful step towards this objective,” he said.
He continued: “The consultation we are having today is timely as we, as actors in Disaster Risk Reduction, are beginning the conversations we need to have, and asking of ourselves the important questions that need to be addressed in building that resilience, including what roles and responsibilities do we have in ensuring the protection of these vulnerable populations; where are we already acting; and what gaps exist that need to be addressed so that we can ensure the protection of our children, our youths, our women and those living with disabilities.”
The Director General (Ag) expressed gratitude to UNICEF and CDEMA for facilitating the consultation, which he said is a much-needed dialogue among DRR actors.
UNICEF Guyana, Emergency Focal Point, Mr. Ian Jones, who spoke on behalf of Ms. Patricia Gittens, the Child Protection Specialist from the same organisation, said UNICEF along with CDEMA are partnering in the Caribbean region for the development of Protocols for Child Protection during emergencies. This partnership is geared at strengthening the focus on ensuring that the rights of all children everywhere can be maintained in humanitarian situations. He noted that similar consultations will also be held in Barbados (for the Eastern Caribbean) and Jamaica.
UNICEF Belize, Early Childhood Development and Education Officer, Mrs. Denise Robateau, said the organisation is pleased to be hosting this consultation in Guyana, particularly through multi-stakeholder coordination. She noted that the added value of collaborating with UNICEF is the specific focus that is placed on women, children and adolescents.
“The Protocol and deliverables that we want to bring is [one] that will guide national emergency responsible units, placing the needs of children, women and adolescents at the centre of emergency response strategies and programmes. The Protocol will include a step by step guide on how to do it and will review existing national tools and mechanisms to ensure that the rights of children are fully included. The Protocol will reflect national, regional and international agreements on integrated protection of children as well as Conventions and existing Protocols. When we speak about the protection of children we are not only zeroing in on the ending of violence or abuse against children but we are looking at the overall survival aspect of that child and what that child needs to survive; sanitation, hygiene, water, protection, right to education among others. All of these rights are important during the preparedness, response and recovery phases,” she noted.