05 October 2023

Climate Change Impact on Adolescent Girls

UNICEF and Karama recognize that there is no child sensitive climate action without explicitly focusing on girls.   Climate change is not gender neutral, rather it amplifies already existing gender inequalities with the most marginalized communities experiencing the greatest impacts. For example: Girls’ household responsibilities and distance to school in increasingly harsh conditions challenges their access to learning. The lack of water and sanitation services may affect girls and adolescent  girls’ reproductive health, with a potential negative impact on their psychosocial and well-being, In some contexts, risks associated with climate change exacerbate possibility of gender-based violence, including child marriage which is reported as a negative coping mechanism due to climate change induced economic insecurity. Indeed, the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, notes that gender-based violence is prevalent where there is both conflict and risk of experiencing extreme weather events, for example in Yemen. Climate change may also increase food insecurity thereby contributing to high anemia rates for adolescent girls. In 2022, UNICEF in partnership with Karama and the Wa’ed Network of adolescent girls supported the development of a Technical Cohort to Advance Adolescent Girls and Young Women’s Leadership in Climate Change. The Technical Cohort consists of members Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and UAE, representing over 25 different girl-led community initiatives and organizations. This Advocacy Brief is is developed through the Technical Cohort to Advance Adolescent Girls and Young Women’s Leadership in Climate Change, with support from Karama, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office Gender Section to amplify the key messages and recommendations from adolescent girls and young women across the region. We call upon key stakeholders to:   PROTECT GIRLS BY ADAPTING THE SOCIAL SERVICES THEY RELY ON Increase climate adaptation finance for social services and ensure girls’, adolescent girls’, and young women’s access to vital social services in health, nutrition, and education, by recognizing gendered considerations and barriers noted in this Brief. Prevent gender-based violence, including child marriage, in the context of climate change by increasing services for timely and confidential response. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls highlighted the relationship between climate change and increased gender-based violence, and calls for robust gender approaches to monitor and evaluate climate mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction policies. Set up measure to implement the CRC General Comment 26 guidance related to the right of all children to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as well as gender responsive education, environmental complaints mechanism and adaptation measures. Ensure girls’ gain skills for 21st century green jobs and climate platforms through adequate education including climate resilient education integrating indigenous and cultural knowledge, within the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This includes ensuring that any developed or adapted climate/environment/DRR curricula is gender-responsive with a specific gender module.   PREPARE GIRLS BY IMPROVING THEIR CAPACITIES AND ENSURING THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD Ensure girls’, adolescent girls’ and young women’s agency in climate change advocacy by amplifying their voices and opportunity to inform climate change policies in order to frame a gender equal just transition, including the NDC and NAP. COP28 and COY offers an opportunity for intentional participation by girls, adolescent girls and young women in climate decision making, for example through defining the Glasgow Work Programme on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). Enable adolescent girls’ and young women’s leadership and active role to design community-based adaptation and mitigation responses, for example by aligning in intergenerational dialogue with women’s organisations, adapting indigenous technology and supporting peer-to-peer awareness raising and active engagement. Girls, adolescent girls and young women and their locally led organizations should be recognized as active participants in decision-making on loss and damage, including as agents and rights-holders in decision-making processes on loss and damage. PRIORITIZE GIRLS IN CLIMATE FUNDING, POLICIES AND RESOURCE ALLOCATION Accelerate the Global Goal of Adaptation by promoting and scale-up female-led and gender responsive adaptation strategies, vital traditional knowledge and indigenous technologies and investing in strategies on sound water usage and fisheries management, traditional composting/recycling practices as well female land stewardship for reforestation and agriculture via planting native seeds. Ensure the Global Stocktake (GST) address the unique and heightened vulnerabilities of girls, adolescent girls and young women to climate change impacts and amplify the perspectives and solutions from girls-led organisations. Address intergenerational inequity via the development of the Loss and Damage facilities to unlock greater funds to protect marginalized and vulnerable girls, adolescent girls, and young women in MENA, in all their diversity, by addressing gendered unequal access to resources and decision-making. National climate change policies, including NAPs and NDC’s, should promote gender-responsive energy approaches to facilitate a Just Transition, including integrate women and girls’ experiences, expertise, decision making and meaningful participation for local governance. Expand and replicate girl-developed platforms and networks, such as the Wa’ed network, through programmes and policies to support community-based climate change strategies as well that tap young women and girl-led innovations via creating opportunities for young women to engage in private sector initiatives to address climate change, and a just energy transition, including in leadership positions.
03 October 2023

Young people’s health and well-being in the Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to almost 140 million young people aged 10-24 years, a quarter of this region’s population. This young population represents a powerful opportunity to influence health and well-being into adulthood and for the next generation, and to advance equitable and sustainable development for communities and societies.  Much of the disease burden, and 90,000 deaths, among young people in the region are preventable. There is also a high prevalence of risk factors for poor health both in adolescence and into adulthood that are amenable to intervention – representing a crucial opportunity for both individual and population-level gains in health and other socioeconomic outcomes. Young people also face multiple threats to their well-being, including exposure to violence, conflict and harmful practices, and missed opportunities to engage in education, employment and civil society that limit the capacity of young people to reach their potential.  One in two deaths of young people in the region (45,000 deaths) are due to injury (transport, other unintended injury and violence). Injuries also cause substantial morbidity, accounting for a quarter of the total disease burden (measured in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) among 10-24 year-olds. Non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancers, headache, musculoskeletal disorders and skin diseases, account for 41 per cent of the total disease burden of young people, and led to over 27,000 deaths in 2019. Almost a quarter of the total disease burden is due to mental disorders and intentional self-harm, with over 4,000 deaths of young people in the region due to suicide.  Communicable diseases account for less than 10 per cent of the disease burden among young people in the region. However, in some countries, Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen, communicable diseases, maternal disorders and nutritional deficiencies are leading contributors to poor health – accounting for 20 per cent of the total disease burden. Sudan and Yemen accounted for over half of the 11,000 deaths due to these causes in 2019.  Young people also experience high rates of risk factors for poor health in adulthood (including tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity) and limited opportunities to complete quality education, transition to meaningful employment, and participate in decisions that impact their lives.  Boys in the region experience a higher burden of poor health and around twice the mortality rate compared with girls, largely driven by injury. While transport and other unintentional injuries are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, boys also experience substantially higher rates of violence, including peer victimization, homicide and interpersonal violence, and mortality as a result of conflict and collective violence. While the prevalence of suicidal behaviour is similar between boys and girls, two thirds of all suicide deaths are among boys. Boys in the region also experience higher rates of use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs compared with girls, and in 11 countries, a third or more of adolescent boys are overweight or obese.  Girls also experience a high burden of poor health due to injury, and transport injuries are the leading cause of death of girls in half of MENA countries. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of poor health for girls, accounting for around half the disease burden (compared to 36 per cent for boys). Girls also experience a higher burden of mental disorder compared with boys, due to increased depression and anxiety. While boys have higher suicide mortality, girls in the region experience a similar prevalence of suicidal behaviour: between 10 and 23 per cent of female students report attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. Girls also face substantial threats to their health, well-being and full participation: around a third of girls are married by age 18 years in Iraq, Yemen and Sudan; female genital mutilation remains prevalent in some settings; and the rate of girls not in education, employment or training is more than double that of boys. Poor reproductive health, including high unmet need for contraception, adolescent childbearing and maternal disorders are also important contributors to morbidity and mortality in many settings, and contributed to almost 1,700 maternal deaths among 10–24-year-old girls in 2019. However, data for many indicators of sexual and reproductive health are lacking in the region.  This analysis has also identified some important data gaps in the region. For many countries, there are very few national-level estimates of sexual and reproductive health knowledge, behaviours and risks that are age-disaggregated and/or provided for unmarried adolescents. Similarly, national-level data describing the prevalence of intimate partner and sexual violence, mental health outcomes, menstrual health, education completion, access to information and technology, and experiences of discrimination are also very limited. Additionally, internationally agreed indicators of some areas of health and well-being (psychosocial well-being, youth participation, safety and health care access) are very limited. There is also a need for further sub-national analyses and qualitative research to identify and describe inequities (including for refugee and displaced young people), and to understand the context and drivers of poor health outcomes and risks in the region.