Leaders from Eastern and Southern Africa recommit to the education, health and well-being of adolescents and young people

Despite progress in recent years, important gaps threaten the wellbeing of adolescents and young people in the region

07 December 2021

Johannesburg – Ministers of education, health, gender, and youth in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), expressed overwhelming support to continue their joint efforts towards creating a brighter future for adolescents and young people in the region by empowering the youth and protecting their health and well-being to achieve the common goals.

A high-level Ministerial Meeting held virtually on Monday, as part of the International Conference on AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (ICASA) 2021 reaffirmed and expanded the commitment first made in 2013.

Eight years ago, Ministries of Health and Education from 20 countries – supported by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) – joined forces with regional UN organizations to agree on a joint commitment, known as the ESA Commitment. They recognized the urgent need for more systematic scale up of sexuality education and youth-friendly SRH services in the region.

“Africa has a large population of young people, and we must do all in our power to make opportune of this demographic dividend. Our young people are our hope for the development of our continent, Africa. As leaders of today, we need to prioritise the health and wellbeing of young people for the betterment of Africa”- Dr Regina Mhaule- Deputy Minister of Basic Education, South Africa. 

While important strides have been made toward improving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes among adolescents and young people, significant gaps and barriers still exist to the realization of the ESA Commitment targets. An evaluation of the 2013 commitment revealed progress in reducing new HIV infections, increasing comprehensive HIV knowledge and creating a conducive policy environment. However, the evaluation also indicated that accelerated efforts are urgently needed to reduce early and unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence and curb the effect of humanitarian emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This further underscored the need to renew the commitment, through expanding and aligning it with the SDG Agenda 2030.

“Young Africans must have the facts and confidence to stay safe and healthy, live a dignified life and contribute positively to their community and countries. They must trust us, their elders, to tell them the truth. Therefore, as Religious Leaders we pledge our support today to the ESA Commitment that seeks to enhance efforts in ensuring the health and wellbeing of our children and young people” said Professor Mbulelo Dyasi – President of the South African Pentecostal Bishops Council and the National Chairperson of the South African Network of Religious Leaders living and affected by HIV&AIDS (SANERELA).

Extensive consultations at national and regional level with governments, adolescents and young people, communities and development partners across sectors led to a new updated regional commitment and targets for 2022-2030.

“The ESA Commitment has opened doors that were closed to us as young leaders. It has provided an opportunity for further advocacy on SRHR to change the lives of adolescents and young people. We strongly encourage and support an expansion and extension of the ESA Commitment towards Agenda 2030” said Hussein Melele – Vice President of the African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN) ESA.

This commitment by the ministers of Health, Gender, Education and Youth is expected to accelerate investments to the education, health and well-being of adolescents and young people in ESA.

“Today we are putting a spotlight on adolescents and young people, and we are set to promote national and international inter-sectoral collaboration. We call on and rally all development partners and well-wishers to come on board and ride with us in the renewed ship that is headed to a land where our adolescents and young people are healthier, more productive, and continual to champion inclusive development of our societies” said Hon. Simai Mohamed Said – Zanzibar Minister for Education and Vocational Training.

Media contacts

Malene Kamp Jensen
Regional Chief of Communications
UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa
Tel: +254 797 048 529
Daisy Leoncio
Regional Communications Advisor
UNFPA East and Southern Africa - Johannesburg


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UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education.

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The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations family which brings together the efforts and resources of 11 UN system organizations to unite the world against AIDS. The Joint Programme is coordinated by the UNAIDS Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. UNAIDS’ mission is to lead and inspire the world in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

For more information visit: https://www.unaids.org/en 


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – is a specialised agency for education, entrusted to lead and coordinate the Education 2030 Agenda, which is part of a global movement to eradicate poverty through 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Education, essential to achieve all of these goals, has its own dedicated Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”