For An Unlikely Disaster Funder, a Focus on the Children in Emergencies

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline doesn’t typically pour a whole lot of money into disaster preparedness. Globally, its sweet spot tends to revolve around HIV/AIDS and the healthcare industry in general. Stateside, its big giving usually involves the state of North Carolina and the city of Philadelphia. And even those grants are largely awarded to science, health, and education programs.

Now, though, it looks like GSK is stepping outside of its funding box on two fronts: funding a disaster preparedness initiative and focusing on areas outside of North Carolina and Philly.

Related: GlaxoSmithKline U.S. Community Partnerships: Philadelphia Grants

To help communities better prepare for the needs of children when disasters strike, GSK is participating in a three-year, $2 million collaboration with the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative in Washington County, Arkansas and Putnam County, New York. The focus of the initiative will be on children’s institutions including day care centers and schools.

The Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative is three-way collaboration with GSK, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, and Save the Children. It is also part of GSKs five-year global partnership with Save the Children.

The initiative’s pilot program in both Washington and Putnam counties will include helping participating communities develop emergency action plans that are sustainable and child-focused. GSKs initiative will also launch a nationwide outreach and advocacy campaign to encourage other communities to develop similar child-focused emergency preparedness plans. Finally, it will form the National Children Resilience Board to help identify nationwide policies and programs to help improve disaster preparedness for children across the country.  

So just how big of a problem is disaster preparedness for children in the U.S.? According to the press release, nearly half of the states in the U.S. lack basic preparedness standards in the event of a natural or man-made disaster and the emergency preparedness plans that do exist often fail to address the needs of children.

Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, nearly 5,200 children went missing after both Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. It took officials seven months to reunite the last missing child with her family. And given that nearly 70 million kids across the country spend their days in childcare facilities and school, the lack of disaster and emergency preparedness at these facilities is a big problem in the U.S.

We'll be watching if efforts to address this problem catch on in a big way.