Save the Children is calling for Australia to invest in ‘shock-responsive’ social protection systems in the Asia-Pacific region to allow neighbouring nations to better address conflict, climate, and COVID-19 impacts.
As the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is held this week in Brisbane, Save the Children says Australia should also support construction and resilience measures for education facilities to ensure children can attend school safely.
Many countries in Asia already have targeted social protection systems for some of the population, while most countries in the Pacific have only fledgling or non-existent systems, but in both regions these systems are being pushed to their limits by successive disasters and crises.
As a result, more children are being pulled out of school, being denied healthcare, and missing out on nutritious food.
Establishing, expanding and funding ‘shock responsive’ social protection measures across Asia-Pacific, such as emergency cash responses to disasters, should be prioritised so national systems can eventually have the capacity to provide universal coverage.
Save the Children’s Head of Humanitarian Melanie Book said that the impact of disasters is already having a very real impact on the futures of millions of children in the region.
“The Asia-Pacific region is already scarred by the health and economic impacts of Covid-19, rising debt and hunger, and interrupted educations,” she said.
“With the negative impact of climate change only set to increase the likelihood of disasters, it is prudent that Australia invests in better regional social protection infrastructure now.
“By helping to establish and fund these systems in countries across the Asia Pacific region, while also advocating for debt relief, these countries can co-invest their own resources in building and maintaining these systems in the future,” Ms Book said.
Save the Children is also calling for a greater focus on the unique needs of children in disaster responses and recovery in Australia.
In less than three years, Australian children have endured multiple disasters – a scale not seen before in Australia.
In NSW more than 600 schools were closed due to bushfires in 2019, and earlier this year 310 schools were also closed due to flooding in the state, while all Brisbane state schools were briefly shuttered because of flooding. COVID-19 also saw in-person schooling paused for the majority of Australia’s children for periods in 2020-21.
“We should be doing everything we can to learn from recent disasters so that we can better protect children in the future.
“Keeping children’s needs at the centre of disaster responses as well as longer-term recovery programs must be considered essential services,” Ms Book said.
Save the Children also supports the promotion of the Comprehensive Safe School Framework (CSSF), an international approach to protecting children and education in the face of natural and technological threats, climate change, epidemics, pandemics and conflict, which offers governments a practical framework to make urgent progress across a multitude of children’s rights and the sustainable development agenda.
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