Adolescents and youth
In the Middle East and North Africa region, there are 83 million adolescents (10-19 year olds), representing 20 per cent of the population. The highest proportions are found in Yemen and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (25 per cent each) followed by Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan and Sudan (23 per cent).
This youth bulge is creating great opportunities for economic and social development, but it also requires the development of policies and programmes to ensure that the needs and rights of these young people are met.
While dramatic gains have been made across the region top reduce under-five and maternal mortality and increase school attendance and enrolment, opportunities are sometimes lost when children enter their second decade of life. For example, in secondary education, enrolment drops from 89 per cent at the lower secondary level to 54 per cent at the upper secondary level.
Unemployment rates for youth in the region (15 to 24) are the highest worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization. In 2009, nearly one out of four youths were unemployed. Young women were more likely to be unemployed than young men (one in three women compared with one in five men).
Early marriage remains an issue in a number of countries in the region, affecting 15 per cent of adolescent girls. The rates of adolescent girls who are currently married or in union reach 1 in 4 in Sudan and nearly 1 in 5 in Iraq and Yemen.
UNICEF focuses on providing platforms for youth civic engagement at local and national levels, ensuring adolescent boys and girls have access to quality education and learning opportunities, supporting equitable access to adolescent friendly systems and services, and promoting inclusive national policies in favour of young people.