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When disaster strikes

A glimpse into the Emergency Preparedness Program 
at the SOS Children's Village in Ecuador

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Join Allianz World Runner Sydney Bailey on her journey to Ecuador, where she explores the ways in which the Emergency Preparedness Program helps local communities to cope with natural risks.

A picturesque mountain turns into a lava-spewing volcano - this is a fear children from the SOS Children's Village in Quito, Ecuador have to live with on a daily basis. World Run ambassador Sydney Bailey visited the community there - her task was to learn how Ecuadorians cope with the constant fear of a disaster -  and how the Emergency Preparedness Program is supporting them with new resilience mechanisms.

A nervous state of mind

This year’s Allianz World Run raised half a million euros that was invested in emergency preparedness packages for 10 Children’s Villages in risk areas across the world. The packages help train staff on coping with issues such as child protection, water treatment, medical equipment, power supply and even psychological counseling, should a disaster strike. They also include supplies such as breathing masks, flash lights, clean drinking water and instant foods, among other items.

One of the pilot villages is located in Quito, at the foothills of the Cotopaxi volcano. The risk of an eruption hangs over those living in the surrounding area, all the time. The volcano has shown moderate levels of activity for the past decades, with two major earthquakes in 1999 and 2016.

Fifteen-year-old Milena, who studies at the SOS Children’s Village school, is yet to forget her experience with an earthquake in 2016. “It was April 16, exactly at 5:48 PM – I checked the time after leaving the classroom. Suddenly, I felt dizzy and my friend Isabel grabbed my arm. We were still for a few seconds until we realized that it was the floor that was shaking. The school siren went off. We had learnt in drills that we should move to open areas like the playground. Everything happened so fast. It felt like a bad dream.”

Preparation is key

Sydney explains that the biggest advantage of the Emergency Preparedness Program is its holistic approach: “The program takes effect in phases – before, during, and after a natural disaster. The vision behind is to turn the program into a circular and sustainable process.”

It begins with access to reliable, continuous information. Allianz has been helping SOS Children's Villages develop an early warning system that is based on the latest satellite technology and on-site assessments. The system provides detailed, yet user-friendly analysis of the risk exposure of each village. Local staff is trained to use this data and take required steps ahead of time.

“While I was there, we also took a look at the emergency supply that the packages include,” says Sydney. In case of a disaster, staff are provided with secured access to medical equipment, power supply, nutrition and drinking water, among other items.

The aftermath of disasters need to be addressed as well. Calming down the survivors, especially children, and providing them with essentials, both mentally and material, can be challenging. This is where empathetic and well-trained caregivers can make a difference.

When asked whether she believes that the Emergency Preparedness Program will have a meaningful impact on the SOS Children's Village and the surrounding communities, Sydney is positive: “Of course, if a huge catastrophe happens, it’s going to be awful no matter what you’ve done to prepare. But it helps people to know that the most advanced measures available are put into place for them.”

 

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