Friday, March 18, 2011

UNICEF: Investing in adolescents can break cycles of poverty and inequity and reduce risk of HIV

UNICEF launches 2011 State of the World's Children Report, 'Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity'

Manila, Philippines - Investing in the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10-19 now can break entrenched cycles of poverty and inequity, and reduce the risk of HIV in the Philippines, said UNICEF, launching its 2011 State of the World’s Children report entitled ‘Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity’.

Strong investments during the last two decades have resulted in enormous gains for young children up to the age of 10. The 33 per cent drop in the global under-five mortality rate (nearly 50% in the Philippines) shows that many more young lives have been saved and millions of children now benefit from improved access to safe water and critical medicines such as routine vaccinations.

On the other hand, there have been fewer gains in areas critically affecting adolescents. More than seventy million adolescents of lower secondary age are currently out of school. In the Philippines, only about 60% of children of secondary school age ever attend. Without education, adolescents cannot develop the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the risks of exploitation, abuse and violence that are at height during the second decade of life.

“Adolescence is a pivot point – an opportunity to consolidate the gains we have made in early childhood or risk seeing those gains wiped out,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “We need to focus more attention now on reaching adolescents -- especially adolescent girls -- investing in education, health and other measures to engage them in the process of improving their own lives.”

Adolescence is a critically important age. It is during this second decade of life that inequities and poverty manifest starkly. Young people who are poor or marginalized are less likely to make the transition to secondary education during adolescence, and they are more likely to experience exploitation, abuse and violence such as domestic labour and child marriage – especially if they are girls.

The vast majority of today’s adolescents (88 per cent) live in developing countries. In the Philippines, adolescents comprise almost 20 million of the population or roughly 22% (2007 census). This report catalogues, in heart-wrenching detail, the array of dangers adolescents face: early pregnancy and childbirth, a primary cause of death for teenage girls; the pressures that keep 70 million adolescents out of school; exploitation, violent conflict and the worst kind of abuse at the hands of adults.

In the Philippines, about 1.4 million young women and men between 15 and 24 years of age were unemployed accounting for 51 per cent of the total unemployed (2008). An increasingly technological labour market requires skills that many young people do not possess. This not only results in a waste of young people’s talents, but also in a lost opportunity for the communities in which they live. In many countries, large teenage populations are a unique demographic asset that is often overlooked. By investing in adolescent education and training, countries can reap a large and productive workforce, contributing significantly to the growth of national economies.

Adolescents and HIV risk in the Philippines
In the Philippines, one third of new HIV infections are occurring among young people 15-24 years of age increasing 10-fold from 2007 to 2010.

Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF country representative said: “ There is no doubt that HIV + AIDS in the Philippines has an adolescent face. We know from research and findings around the world that youth need sound and accurate information on sexual and reproductive health to protect them from teen pregnancy, early marriage, gender-based violence, risky social and sexual behaviours, and STIs and HIV. We cannot be complacent any longer about the rate of new HIV infections. Infections in the Philippines are increasing at an alarming rate.”

Tobin added: “The Philippines has led the south east Asian region in recognising and promoting adolescent rights and giving young people a voice. It is now important to listen to those voices and respond to adolescents need to receive clear, accurate information on protecting themselves from STIs and HIV. ”

To enable adolescents worldwide to effectively deal with these challenges, targeted investments in the following key areas are necessary:

• Investing in education and training so that adolescents have the means to lift themselves out of poverty and contribute to their national economies;
• Advocating for expanded opportunities for youth to participate and voice their opinion, for example in national youth councils, youth forums, online activism and other avenues which enable adolescents to make their voices heard.
• Promoting laws, policies and programs that protect the rights of both children and adolescents and enable them to overcome barriers to essential services

The report concludes that young people must be given the tools they need to improve their own lives. Only then will we foster a generation of economically independent citizens who are fully engaged in civic life and able to actively contribute to their communities.

“Millions of young people around the world are waiting for a greater action by all of us,” said Lake.

For further information, to arrange an interview or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact:
Angela Travis, UNICEF Philippines
Tel +63 917 8678366,

No comments: