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UNICEF Kit Helps Children Talk about Natural Disasters

Floods, fire and earthquakes are events that many Australian and New Zealand children experience in their lifetime. And children all over the developing world also frequently experience trauma as a result of natural disasters.

UNICEF Australia's chief executive officer Dr Norman Gillespie spoke about the recent Queensland and NSW floods and Tasmanian bushfires when releasing UNICEF's new information kit on talking to children about natural disasters.

Dr Gillespie said, “Signs of trauma are no doubt being experienced by children whose families have had to make the hard decision to leave property in flood and bushfire-affected regions across Queensland, northern NSW and throughout Tasmania and Victoria.” 

UNICEF Australia’s education kit, Teaching Children About Natural Disasters, can be downloaded for free.

Working to help children in the developing world, UNICEF staff are acutely aware of the effects of natural disaster on children in our neighboring countries. The weather event that had caused widespread flooding and heavy rain throughout Queensland and regions of NSW had also caused flooding and displaced people in Jakarta, Indonesia. Dr Gillespie said, “The last report our office had was that 249,000 people in Jakarta were affected and we know a third of those are children.We’ve also heard that 30 people were killed in the floods.”

Explaining the work of UNICEF during disasters and also in conflict zones, Dr Gillespie said, “In a majority of emergencies UNICEF puts itself on the front line to protect the rights of children who are made extremely vulnerable as a result of dislocation, food shortages and, in the worst cases, where they’ve lost one or both parents to disaster or conflict. UNICEF, though a United Nations agency, does not receive United Nations funding and is reliant on government donations and the donations of generous corporate and individual supporters.” 

“With our sister offices around the world, we are right now focussed on the needs of children in Syria.” Dr Gillespie said what children had witnessed during Syria’s almost two-year conflict was disturbing and UNICEF’s child protection workers were inside refugee camps providing trauma counselling. “Workers in camps outside of Syria tell us children are acting out violence, isolating themselves from friends and even family and have created alternative scenarios to help explain what they’ve witnessed,” he said.

The education kit Teaching Children About Natural Disasters has been developed with  the expertise of child protection workers worldwide and the specialist team at UNICEF Australia.

Dr Gillespie recognised the resilience and also the generosity of Australian families when launching the kit: “They also champion the rights of their children, and UNICEF Australia’s Teaching Children About Natural Disasters gives them tips on how to help children feel safe and secure.”

Image from UNICEF