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Raising awareness on natural hazards for students across Lebanon
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Raising awareness on natural hazards for students across Lebanon

UNDP
“Two months ago, I felt the earth moving under my feet and completely panicked”
says Salwa a 9 year student in Tyre, Lebanon, as she concentrates on the content of the “Sneazing Firas” Play to understand the threats of natural disasters and how to be prepared.
In this context, the UNDP has long been supporting Lebanon in strengthening its resilience against disasters. Through the joint efforts of the Government and civil society at the central and local level, the UNDP has helped ensure national and local development and planning processes integrate. Moreover the UNDP has sought to increase and strengthen the capacity of all stakeholders including the private sector. All social backgrounds were targeted, as well as people of all ages and especially school children.

“Sneezing Firas” is the title of the play that was performed across the country for public school students aged 7 to 12 in Beirut, Saida, Tyre, the Chouf and Metn, and aiming to raise awareness on disaster risk reduction and prevention.

The play which uses drama, storytelling, puppetry, shadow theater and video, includes prevention messages on earthquakes, tsunamis, and fires. It also addresses problems related to children’s relations with their schoolmates, parents and teachers. It relies on simplicity to stimulate the imagination of young viewers in order to improve their interaction with their surroundings, and their motivation for homework. The play also tries to raise the children’s awareness on the issues of our times, as well as increasing their interest in finding solutions to these problems. These include the rise in pollution with an overview of solutions and alternatives, natural disasters that threaten the Earth and preventive measures that could limit their effect, and alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power to solve electricity shortages in Lebanon.

At the end of the play, all students received a booklet on disaster risk reduction and prevention entitled “Al Dalil El Manzili” (The Home guide), which includes information serving the whole family. “As early as kindergarten, schools in Japan are educating children about how to detect and react to disaster situations, conducting regular drills and ‘disaster watches’. This long-time investment undoubtedly saved many lives in the March 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami,” says Nathalie Zaarour UNDP’s National Disaster Reduction project manager in Lebanon. “It’s possible that Lebanon may again experience earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and forest fires that would affect thousands of people causing damage to both infrastructure and the economy. While seismic activity cannot be prevented, all of us can be better prepared,” she added. “Raising children’s awareness will enable us to educate a whole generation on one hand and teach them to convey the message to their relatives and friends to raise their awareness and sensitize them on the importance of preparedness on the other hand”, she concluded.

Other measures to increase awareness amongst specialists and the general population include drills and table tops in Cities, Municipalities and Ministries across Lebanon to train professionals, a dedicated website as well as a mobile phone app that provides emergency information before, during and after a quake in addition to notifications from concerned agencies. These measures also include workshops targeting all sectors, private and public.