UNICEF Launches State of the World's Children Report 2011
Maputo – On Friday February 25, UNICEF Mozambique launched the key report known as the State of the World’s Children Report, an annual report focusing on key issues and challenges affecting the world’s children and presenting data on progress on child health and other areas.
The title of this year's report is "Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity". There are 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, approximately 20% of the world’s population. We often think of adolescents as an important part of the future, but they are very much part of the present, making up a significant part of our society.
The report highlights that adolescence is not only an age of vulnerability and risk, of turmoil and rebellion, but also an age of opportunity. In some contexts, adolescents may have the greatest needs of any age group, as they are often exposed to child marriage, sexual exploitation, drugs and armed conflicts.
Investing in adolescents means consolidating the gains achieved for younger children, those aged 0 to 9, and investing in adolescents means accelerating the fight against the intergenerational cycle of poverty, disparity and exclusion. Very often people who are born poor remain poor when they grow up. By giving young people education and economic opportunities, this cycle of poverty may be broken.
Adolescents are at increased risk of accidents and unintentional injury, of nutritional problems and sexual exploitation leading to HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and complications from childbirth. Better information and better services help mitigate these risks. Better schooling, in particular secondary schooling, yields many benefits, such as later marriage, lower fertility rates and improved health outcomes. Adolescents are at risk of violence, abuse, exploitation; including child labour, trafficking, recruitment by armed groups. Increased social and legal protection reduces these risks.
In Mozambique, half the population is under 18 years of age. We know that young girls in particular are disproportionally affected by the HIV epidemic. Adolescent girls are often exposed to intergenerational and transactional sex, which increases their risk of HIV infection. It is estimated that the gross completion rate for secondary education is 6.5%, which is very low. It is naturally even lower in rural areas.
The existence of violence and sexual abuse in the schools affects attendance and retention, especially of girls. Sexual abuse of girls in schools is a particular concern. Child trafficking is also recognized problem, as well as child marriage. Recent data show that 17% of Mozambican girls are married before the age of 15.
The report’s main policy recommendations are to invest in education and training; increase youth participation; create a supportive environment for adolescent rights; and address issues of poverty and inequity. UNICEF is launching the report in several languages, and UNICEF Mozambique is publishing the report in Portuguese.