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Commission to call for better disaster planning for children

By Tom Cohen, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Panel created in 2007 presents its report Wednesday
  • Disaster planning neglects needs of children, panel head says
  • Recommendations include better tracking of evacuees

Washington (CNN) -- Planning for disasters such as Hurricane Katrina fails to properly address the needs of children, according to a report coming out Wednesday by a national commission established by Congress to examine the issue.

"Children are 25 percent of our nation's population but they are neglected when it comes to disaster management," Mark Shriver, chairman of the National Commission on Children of Disasters, said in a statement. "If we're not prepared to protect children during disasters, then we're simply not prepared for disasters as a nation."

Shriver called for "a cohesive national strategy that addresses the unique needs of children and incorporates them into disaster plans."

The commission created in 2007 has previously issued interim reports and summarized its findings in August. On Wednesday, it presents its final report to President Barack Obama and Congress.

A statement issued by the panel said the report documents "seriously underfunded federal programs for school disaster preparedness," a lack of necessary coordination among federal, state and local agencies responsible for children, and a private health care system unprepared for the needs of children.

The report makes more than 100 recommendations, including development of a National Strategy on Children and Disasters.

It calls for establishing permanent coordination points in Federal Emergency Management Agency regional offices and elsewhere to help children in disaster situations, and more funding for disaster planning in schools, child care centers and other facilities with children.

In addition, the report suggests creating a national system to track people evacuated from disaster areas in order to help reunite children with families as quickly as possible.