When crisis strikes, children are always the most vulnerable, and often suffer most. Natural disasters can affect children in many ways, including disrupting their education and learning opportunities by destroying schools and displacing families. This past year, the U.S. was hit by three major hurricanes that ranked among the top five costliest in history. Sadly, Puerto Rico’s Department of Education just announced that it is set to close 238 schools as a direct consequence of Hurricane Maria, greatly impacting the island’s children.
With this year’s upcoming hurricane season less than 50 days away, we wanted to highlight the importance of investing in disaster preparation, mitigation, and community resilience by underscoring the long-term effects these emergencies have on children.
- Physical and emotional harm: Following the trauma of a natural disaster, children may experience physical harm and disaster-related illnesses, as well as social and emotional distress – which can also lead to health problems, difficulties learning, behavioral issues and impaired relationships.
- Limited access to nutritious food and quality medical care: Due to the lack of access to fresh and nutritional food following the devastation of a hurricane, young children suffer the most. Additionally, the destruction of medical facilities hinders access to necessary developmental screenings and care that infants and toddlers need, especially after a disaster.
- Delayed learning opportunities and development: Damage from hurricanes restrict access to early learning facilities, such as Early Head Start and Head Start, which can cause developmental delays in infant and toddlers’ social, language and motor growth.
By investing in disaster preparation and mitigation, we can save lives, keep kids in school and save money in the future. It’s critical that we protect the youngest lives caught in these natural disasters. Getting children quickly back in school and in their classrooms will ensure they get their lives back to normal. We must step up and invest in disaster mitigation and community resilience so we can reach the most vulnerable in times of need and make sure they have access to high-quality learning programs!