Children in Rain

Assessing the impacts of flooding on children

In News by ambrisk

Assessing the impacts of
flooding on children

Teachers in Kuantan Malaysia 2017 assist pre-schoolers to safety. (Photo Credit:, Bernama).

When flooding occurs the effects are felt across the whole community and studies have shown that the impact on children can be particularly severe. This article is written to coincide with a charity campaign run by Save the Children and it aims to highlight the plight of children affected by floods along with identifying ways in which these impacts can be reduced. It also raises awareness of how Ambiental and others are raising money to support children over this Christmas holiday season.


Santa Cruz, Manila 2013. Floodwaters can be a playground for children but the potential impacts on their health and wellbeing should not be underestimated (Photo Credit: Edwin Bellosillo).

Children are considered highly vulnerable to floods on account of their smaller size and often their inability to swim presenting a heightened danger of drowning. Young people may not understand the risks they face or appreciate how flood events will unfold. Issues of hygiene and the dangers of contaminated waters may also not be well known to them. The phycological impacts of flood trauma can also affect Children detrimentally.

When floods occur, children may witness anxiety and fear in adults as they struggle to protect their homes. Children may lose family members, pets, cherished memorabilia, and toys. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network advises that children may not understand why parents must dispose of contaminated belongings during the clean-up process. Children may also experience the horror of seeing injured people or dead bodies. Adults may find it difficult to gauge the emotional impact of floods on children, who often hide their symptoms to avoid worrying them.


Teachers in Kuantan Malaysia 2017 assist pre-schoolers to safety. (Photo Credit:, Bernama).

Beyond the immediate risk to life from drowning and exposure floods also present risks to psychological and physical health. Studies have shown that the emotional impact of floods continued to cause severe psychological symptoms up to two years after a flood. In children this can have significant detrimental impacts on their development. In instances where schools and nurseries are damaged or destroyed by flooding or their buildings are repurposed as evacuation centres there will inevitably be associated impacts on their education and socialisation.

In a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council ESRC, Lancaster University and Save the Children researchers found that factors impacting on children’s wellbeing include:

  • loss of valued personal and family possessions, friendship networks, familiar spaces, education
  • experience of fear, anxiety, poverty, isolation, unfairness, destruction, stress, uncertainty, being ignored/misunderstood
  • lack of sleep and recreation
  • deterioration in diet, space and housing conditions
  • lack of flood education provision in schools for children and all staff.

Even after a flood event children may potentially experience traumatic reminders, during which they suddenly relive the emotions, fears, thoughts, and perceptions they had at the time of the flood. Typical traumatic reminders are flood alerts and warnings, or the sudden onset of dark clouds, bolts of lightning, thunder, and rain.

Lead researcher in the ESRC study Professor Mort commented that “flooding is recognised as a major and chronic national hazard and it is time to recognise that children and young people are severely affected, yet still have no voice in policy that affects them. It is time to bring together the agencies that work on flood response, recovery and resilience to address their exclusion”.


“Bobber” the Water Safety Dog educates children in Galveston Texas in 2012 (Photo credit: US Army Corp of Engineers).

There is a need for systematic and statutory flood education programme in schools and the wider community. Future studies should research children’s strengths and vulnerabilities as well as finding ways to advise them with better information before, during and after flooding to enable them to be seen as active citizens and not passive victims. When children experience flood related trauma there is a value in them sharing experiences. Studies show that there is a need to recognise that flood-affected children have the experience to help themselves and others understand measures which should be taken to prepare, protect and adapt to flooding and a clear message that households need to make a proper flood plan.

At Ambiental it is hoped that our work to identify areas at risk of flooding with hazard maps and early warning systems can make a contribution to protecting the well-being of children in the UK and internationally. If you would like to discuss how Ambiental can help with promoting flood awareness to children in your local area please do contact us for more information.

This Christmas Ambiental staff are participating in the Save the Children Christmas Jumper day to raise funds and awareness to the important issue of child welfare. We invite you to also donate generously to this worthy cause. To do so, simply text TEAMAMBTS to 70050 and £5 will be added to your phone bill and given to Save the Children. And in the fun spirit of Christmas and fundraising here is a photo of some of our team enjoying Christmas Jumper Day. On behalf of everyone at Ambiental we wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


About the Author

Paul Drury is the GIS Data Manager at Ambiental. His role includes project management of production operations and reporting back to stakeholders. He also oversees the preparation, integration and quality assurance checking of data assets. Paul is an expert in GIS and data analysis with a developed understanding of the environmental data industry and underlying technical concepts. He has a BSc (hons) in Environmental Sciences from the University of Brighton.

Paul Drury
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