Photo: UNDP Viet Nam. Story: Phan Huong Giang/UNDP Viet Nam

According to the long-term average Climate Risk Index, Viet Nam ranks among the world's top ten countries most affected by natural disasters. Although not frequent, Viet Nam has ever experienced earthquakes that reached a magnitude of 6.7 to 6.8 on the Richter scale (Institute of Geophysics, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology).  The Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority informs that if an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in the East Sea, it could trigger 2-4 meters high tsunami waves along the Central coastal region of Viet Nam, from Ha Tinh to Ba Ria-Vung Tau province (VDMA 2015). Children are among the most vulnerable groups affected by tsunamis, especially if they do not know what to do to stay safe.

“Tsunamis are waves that are about ten meters high. When landing, they have tremendous destructive power that can sweep everything away. In the past, when I saw tsunami videos, I simply thought that when a tsunami occurs, all I need to do was to climb on the roof of a house. I find myself not fully equipped with knowledge and proper skills,” said Tran Thi Thu Hien, a student in class 9/1 at Thai Phien secondary school in Quang Nam province.

Quang Nam province is one of the areas in Viet Nam that are most likely to be affected by tsunamis. The Government has invested in building multi-purpose disaster warning stations (including tsunami warning stations) in the province to reduce the possible impact of tsunamis. The tsunami warning communication system alerts the authorities and people living in affected areas, enabling them to organize a timely response.

In order to reduce lives lost, the number of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards, UNDP is implementing a regional project titled ‘Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in Asia and the Pacific’ with the support of the Government of Japan, together with other 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific.

In Viet Nam, UNDP and the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority organized the first-ever campaign named "Schools of Son Tinh" to raise awareness and equip children with life-saving skills in response to tsunamis and natural disasters. The campaign was named after Son Tinh – the spirit of the mountain – to remind the Vietnamese people of the Son Tinh legend, where Thuy Tinh – the spirit of the sea – raised the water and created a storm but could not win the war against Son Tinh.

“Children, the country’s future owners, are the group that are most vulnerable to natural disasters. They need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to protect themselves from natural hazards. Responses to disaster risks including tsunamis should be integrated into the teaching curriculum of schools at all levels in Central coastal communes,” said Tran Quang Hoai, Director General of the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority.

"Among the most vulnerable groups to natural disasters are the elderly and disabled and young people. Young people can take care of themselves when they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills as early as possible,” added Catlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam.

As part of the #PrepareToWin campaign, UNDP Viet Nam has organized 8 advocacy and dialogue events in 5 provinces and conducted 6 school drills with the participation of more than 6,000 students and teachers. The project also focuses on the development of training materials, organization of trainings, preparation of a sample school response plan and organization of partnership building events.

“After joining the drill, I learned more about tsunamis. I know how to respond and evacuate to the safe areas,” Hien said happily.

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