The role of children and adolescents needs to be promoted in reducing risks associated with disasters, heard a conference held in Hanoi on Oct. 12 to commemorate the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

"We need to change public attitudes towards the roles of children and adolescents in the prevention and reduction of disasters, especially at the community level," said Nguyen Thi Ha, Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union.

Children's involvement in disaster management should be encouraged by adults, Ha said.

This year's event, themed "Step up for disaster risk reduction – Making children and young people partners for disaster risk reduction," was organised by the Communist Youth Union and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Other organisers include non-governmental organisations such as Plan International and Save the Children.

The meeting drew hundreds of students from five secondary schools in Hanoi and a group of Mong children from north-eastern Yen Bai province and central Quang Tri province.

In the meeting, they discussed what would happen if a disaster strikes their areas and ways to prepare for and reduce the risks of a disaster through short plays, songs, pictures and speeches.

"In order to prepare for and timely cope with floods, we need to keep ourselves informed of the weather forecast and have alarms on radio or television," a Mong girl from Yen Bai said.

Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund Lotta Sylwander said the Vietnamese government is now well aware of the risk of disasters facing the country.

One of Vietnam 's notable moves, she added, was its approval of the Community-based Disaster risk Management Programme in 2009.

Sylwander called for increased dialogue between State leaders and children and their commitments in following the Children's Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction, an action plan developed by international organisations through consultation with hundreds of children in more than 20 countries.

The charter addresses five priorities, including the preservation of schools' safety, the protection of the most vulnerable people and children during disasters and the promotion of children's access to information.

According to a recent report providing a global review on disaster risk reduction issued in July by the United Nations and the agriculture ministry, the economic costs caused by disasters have increased all over the world during the past decade.

During the 1990-2009 period, there were 457 deaths caused by disasters each year in Vietnam and the annual economic cost due to disasters was estimated to account for 1.3 percent of the country's GDP./.