Posted on October 17, 2014

Qatar Red Crescent (QRC) has focused its disaster risk reduction efforts on schools to promote a culture of safety, especially in educational institutions that house thousands of students, teachers and other employees, said Gulf Times.

Speaking at the World Disasters Report (WDR) 2014 launch yesterday, head of QRC’s risk reduction team Reema al-Merekhi said the “Safe School Programme” has benefited 7,072 students and 600 administrative staff from 21 schools in Qatar - covering kindergarten, primary, preparatory and high school. It is the first time that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched the WDR in the Middle East.

Al-Merekhi said her team had trained volunteers, who were also initiated in designing and implementing the programme. “We built the programme around two events that occurred on April 9 and 16, 2013, when Qatar experienced two tremors as a result of earthquakes that struck Iran, in which injuries, unsafe behaviour and a situation of chaos were reported during evacuations,” al-Merekhi recounted during her presentation.

As people in Qatar had not experienced earthquakes in the past years, she said many believed that they live “in a protected region that will never experience natural disasters”. This had resulted in ignoring the need to raise awareness and implement precautions during and after an earthquake. Citing the need to deal with possible disasters in the future, QRC’s disaster risk reduction volunteer team had implemented the community-based programme on disaster preparedness.

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“In the planning phase, we had to think on how we could access and encourage community members to accept and behave in a way that would reduce the risks of earthquake,” she said. Al-Merekhi also stressed that her team had exerted efforts to understand the knowledge, beliefs and perception of the community about earthquakes to make risk reduction efforts successful and effective. She highlighted the importance of educating the rest of the community and enhancing their skills to be more efficient in responding to disasters.

Part of the programme included practical procedures to deal with earthquakes (before, during and after); assessing the weakness and strength of the school and plan for evacuation; first aid: conducting lectures on common injuries; psychosocial support; evacuation drill; submitting a written report of recommendation to the school; a drawing competition; and follow-up visit after one year of holding the programme. Al-Merekhi said they had designed and obtained fund for the second year to print a programme booklet.

Besides having a fully booked schedule for the whole year, the team had received positive feedback from schools. They are planning to expand the programme by including all schools in Qatar. QRC plays an active role in relief and assistance activities in all regions affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts around the globe, its secretary-general Saleh bin Ali al-Mohannadi stressed in his speech.