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Beyond Disaster Relief

Originally appears in the Spring 2012 issue

Families are often thrown into turmoil when natural disasters strike. Many lose their homes, their belongings, their livelihoods, and more tragically, their loved ones. Whether it is a hurricane, earthquake or drought, natural disasters make a hard life harder for those they affect, regardless of where they live.

There has been a dramatic rise in climate related natural disasters over the past decade. Projections suggest that the number of people impacted by climate related disaster will rise by 133 million by 2015, to affect 375 million people a year on average.[i] Recently, for example, massive droughts in the Horn of Africa have driven 12 million people[ii] to seek emergency aid, and have spurred famine in parts of Somalia.

Two billion of the most vulnerable people around the world often rely directly on the land for their food and livelihoods, making them more vulnerable to disasters. Their ability to prepare for disasters, endure disasters in the short-term, and rebuild their lives in the wake of disasters are all important keys to survival.

Helping students understand the vulnerabilities and strengths of their own communities, along with those of poorer communities throughout the world, will help them become more engaged and empathetic global citizens. The information and activities included in this article will also help students aged 12-17 develop problem solving skills, learn about geography and current events, and develop a deeper understanding of the impact of climate change, disasters, and disaster-relief in a way that they can connect to their everyday lives.

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Sandra Kiviaho is the Director of Public Engagement at CHF, the Canadian Hunger Foundation in Ottawa, Ontario.