In Vietnam, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief organisation, Malteser International, is conducting Disaster Risk Reduction projects to prepare the local population for potential future catastrophes. Coastal villages face frequent tropical storms which lead to floods almost every year. The Order of Malta’s project involves children and young adults in recognition of the essential roles they can play in helping keep their communities safe.
Disaster Risk Reduction begins in schools, where more than 1,000 children have participated in the Order of Malta’s workshops and learnt to identify risks and what to do in case of evacuation.
“In the past, children were considered a group that needed to be taken care of passively,” says Nguyen Thi Thuy Nga, Malteser International’s programme coordinator in Vietnam. “In our project, they were able to participate actively so their awareness increased. They now know what to do, during and after floods and storms, including preventing diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene”.
Earlier this year 170 villagers, trained volunteers, community leaders and government officials in Truong Dinh, on Vietnam’s south-central coast, participated in a community drill organised by Malteser International, where they were able to put their skills to the test. During the drill the children and youths did not act as observers or victims: they participated and helped by putting what they had learnt in school into practice.
Since 2009 Malteser International has worked in 13 Vietnamese villages to improve their ability to respond to natural disasters, instructing 2,113 families and training 338 volunteers in first-aid and search-and-rescue skills. Malteser International has been active in Vietnam since 1966.