Children Protected By Law In Cases Of Disaster

Julia Rawlins-Bentham Top Stories

Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, addressing the Sub-Regional Consultation for the Development of the Protocol for Integrated Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations at UN House today. (A.Husbands/BGIS)

The impact of natural disasters can be extremely traumatic on the mental, physical and emotional abilities of children.

And, while most legislation which speaks to children does not specifically make mention of them in the context of disasters, they are covered under other agreements and Acts.

Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, raised these issues today, as he delivered the feature address during the Sub-Regional Consultation for the Development of the Protocol for Integrated Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations at UN House.

At this event there was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Minister Hinkson pointed out that the implications at the national level of major hazards or disasters on children could range from lack of access to proper health care due to medicinal shortages, to unsafe drinking water and loss of schooling, as schools may be used as shelters for prolonged periods of time.

But, he noted: “The Protection of Children Act (1991) and the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act (1981) provide for the care and protection of children.  However, they do not address the protection or needs of children during disasters.  This is an area to be flagged for future action.”

However, he stated that the island was signatory to the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, which was an all-inclusive policy involving all levels of society at all phases of the disaster management cycle.

“This includes mitigation, preparation, response and recovery.  Thus, it provides for the protection of children during all disasters and at all phases of the disaster cycle,” Mr. Hinkson said.

Similarly, he noted that Barbados’ obligation as a CARICOM member state to implement the guidelines under the Regional Framework of Action for Children 2002 to 2015, also provides specific guidelines for the care and protection of children affected by emergencies and climate change.

The minister told the regional delegates that Barbados’ Emergency Management Act, Cap 160A, also contained a section which spoke to vulnerable areas, critical infrastructure and vulnerable persons.

“By inference and interpretation, this Act provides adequate coverage for children. Part of our disaster preparation strategy in my ministry is ensuring that there is a full review of the vulnerable persons’ list, so that special attention can be focused on them, should we receive notification of a hazard or disaster,” he said.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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