UNICEF report calls for more focus on protecting adolescents
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 24 April 2012 – UNICEF has appealed for more to be done to protect the world’s adolescents from violence, disease and illiteracy.
Each year 1.4 million young people die from road traffic injuries, childbirth, suicide, AIDS and violence, according to UNICEF’s ‘Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents’. The report has been released in conjunction with a four-part series on adolescent health by the British medical journal The Lancet.
The UNICEF report shows that although adolescents have made progress since 1990 – with increasing primary education enrolment and decreasing child mortality rates – those gains are not shared in all regions of the world.
“Adolescents are our future, but for many it is a much grimmer outlook than any deserve,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “This report adds to our understanding of the needs of the most marginalized adolescents who must no longer be left behind.”
A need for more data
Both the Lancet series and the UNICEF report were launched at UNICEF House, coinciding with the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, which chose adolescents and young people as their central theme.
“Together with the new Lancet series and the UNICEF report there is an unprecedented momentum for young people and adolescents. Young people, after all, are our assets for the future,” said Lancet Senior Executive Editor Dr. Sabine Kleinert.
What is known is that about 71 million children of lower secondary school age are not in school, mostly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the least developed countries, a quarter of young men and a third of young women, aged 15 to 24, are illiterate.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for adolescents worldwide, and Belarus, Kazahkstan and the Russian Federation have the highest rates in the world.
Older adolescent boys in Latin America are most likely to die from homicide. In Africa, the top cause of death for adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years old is complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
An estimated 2.2 million adolescents are living with HIV, and about 60 per cent of those are girls, many of whom do not know they are infected.
A gateway to progress for all children
The report calls for a greater investment of resources so that this generation can break the cycle of poverty and be better equipped to fully contribute to their families, communities and nations.
“We must reach them. For adolescence is not only a pivotal time in the life of a child – the gateway to adulthood – it is also a critical opening in which we can make progress for all children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.