New research has found that floods have a serious impact on the well-being of children, but also that children and teens want to take on a role in flood risk management.
According to researchers from Lancaster University in England, a number of factors impact children’s well-being, including:
- loss of valued personal and family possessions, friendship networks, familiar spaces, and education;
- experiencing fear, anxiety, poverty, isolation, unfairness, destruction, stress, uncertainty, being ignored and misunderstood;
- lack of sleep and recreation;
- deterioration in diet, space and housing conditions; and
- ilack of flood education in schools.
However, the research also shows that children play an important role in recovery from flood disasters, by helping families, neighbors, and the wider community and they do not want to be kept in the dark.
As one 10-year-old girl told the researchers, “Adults need to know that children become more scared and worried when they do not know what is happening.”
The study shows that having an active role in flood risk management actually helps with children’s recovery. Yet current flood and emergency planning policy either ignores children or positions them as “vulnerable,” rather than treating them as citizens in their own right.
The researchers propose that children be given more information before, during, and after flooding because they have a right to know how to prepare, what to expect, and how they can contribute.
The report, authored by Maggie Mort, Marion Walker, Alison Lloyd Williams, and Amanda Bingley of Lancaster University and Virginia Howells of Save the Children, details children’s and young people’s experiences of the winter 2013-14 floods in the UK.
Researchers worked with two groups of children: A primary age group in rural South Ferriby, Lincolnshire, where a tidal surge breached the banks of the Humber; and a high school group in urban Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, where the government declared a state of emergency and the army was brought in to assist emergency services cope with tidal, rainfall, river, and groundwater flooding.
According to the researchers, six core themes emerged:
- Children’s feelings of isolation are connected with the long-term, ongoing impact of flooding — and there is a value in them getting together to share experiences;
- A better understanding of children’s strengths and vulnerabilities and arming them with better information before, during, and after flooding enables them to be seen as active citizens and not passive victims;
- There is a need for systematic and statutory flood education program in schools and the wider community;
- There is also a need for schools and the community to acknowledge and understand the range of losses experienced by children, such as the loss of personal “precious” items that embody memories, familiar spaces, friendships, social networks, and loss of time;
- Insurance companies must improve assessment and approach to repairs to acknowledge children’s needs. For example, living in temporary accommodation was worsened by a lack of space and, sometimes, having to relocate several times before returning home prolonged periods of uncertainty;
- There is a need to recognize that flood-affected children actually have the experience to help themselves and others understand the measures that should be taken to prepare, protect, and adapt to flooding — and the very clear message that all households need to make a proper flood plan.
The research resulted in the production of Children’s and Young People’s Manifestos, the staging of several events, a six-minute film, “Ten Tips for the Insurance Sector on how to better support flood-affected children and young people,” and the development of a flood suitcase toolkit for use in schools and youth centers.
“Flooding is recognized as a major and chronic national hazard and it is time to recognize that children and young people are severely affected, yet still have no voice in policy that affects them,” Mort said. “It is time to bring together the agencies that work on flood response, recovery, and resilience to address their exclusion.”
Source: Lancaster University