The ASEAN Safe Schools Initiative (ASSI) Phase II (2014-2016) was launched on November 24 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to promote a strategic partnership for better collaboration among the ASEAN member countries in advancing safe schools in the region.

The participation of ASEAN countries in the initiative launching underscored the firm resolve to continue building safer schools and enabling children to become more resilient to disasters, said Colonel Pengiran Haji Chuchu, Director of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) of Brunei.

The Southeast Asia region has a high incidence of disasters caused by natural hazards, added Pengiran Haji Chuchu, who is also Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ADCM).

According to the ADCM, more than 100 million children live and study in areas prone to disasters such as earthquakes, floods, typhoons and fire.

In the last five years, 14,500 schools in the ASEAN region were fully or partially damaged by natural disasters.

The ASSI implementation will involve the ministries of education and disaster management agencies from each ASEAN member countries at the governmental level, a number of humanitarian organisations such as Mercy Malaysia, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision, other stakeholders in the respective ASEAN countries, including civil societies and media.

The initiative has currently been funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and Australian Aid.

Edward Turvill, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator from ECHO Asia/Pacific, said the initiative launching is considered timely given the recent one year marking of Typhoon Haiyan and the upcoming tenth year anniversary of the Asia Tsunami, which both caused massive devastation in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN countries have committed to ensuring that all girls and boys and teachers at schools have safer teaching-learning facilities and are equipped with proper training and skills in disaster risk reduction.-VNA