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UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2011 report calls for more investment in adolescents to break the cycles of poverty and inequity

Ha Noi, 28 February 2011 – Thanks to committed investments in early and middle childhood (children up to nine-years-old) in Viet Nam, the lives of many young children have been saved, and in many cases significantly improved. For example, since 1990, there has been a 50 per cent drop in mortality for children under five years of age and millions of children now benefit from improved access to primary education, safe water and critical medicines. Viet Nam cannot risk losing these children as they become adolescents and young people, and must complement improvements for young children with stronger investment and action to support the health, education, protection, employment and participation of adolescents and young people.

Investing in adolescents and young people can accelerate the fight against poverty, HIV and AIDS, socio-economic disparities and gender discrimination. Denying adolescents and young people their right to quality education, health care, protection, participation and decent jobs perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion that robs them of the chance to fully develop their capacity to be healthy and productive members of society.

These were some of the themes discussed and recommendations presented today in Ha Noi as the United Nations (UN) launched the latest issue of UNICEF’s flagship publication, the State of the World’s Children 2011, which documents progress in improving children’s rights throughout the world. This year, the theme of the report is “Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity”, which emphasizes the imperative of investing in adolescence.

“Viet Nam is home to 26.7 million adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24-years-old. They account for almost one-third of the population and face a unique set of challenges in today’s Viet Nam, including economic insecurity, HIV and AIDS, climate change and environmental degradation, migration and rapid urbanization. With these challenges expected to intensify over the next decade, adolescents and young people will need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to contend with their impact,” said UNICEF Viet Nam Representative Ms. Lotta Sylwander.

During the event, some of the key challenges for adolescents in Viet Nam were highlighted as follows:

  • About 283,700 children and adolescents aged 0-15 are affected by HIV and AIDS and require care and support, and many of them are at risk of HIV infection. This calls for laws and policies related to HIV, drug use, sex work, sexual and reproductive health and gender to enable a safe and supportive environment for most-at-risk young people that will help reduce the stigma blocking their access to HIV services.
  • Young people represent an increasingly important proportion of the labour force in Viet Nam and by investing in the education and training of adolescents, the country could reap a large and productive workforce that would contribute significantly to the long-term stability and growth of the economy.
  • Sexual and reproductive norms and behaviours are changing rapidly among young people – one third of whom still face barriers while trying to access the reproductive health information or services they need. The UN in Viet Nam therefore stresses the urgent need to equip young people with accurate and relevant information and provide them with decision-making and life skills, as well as develop and make available health services tailored to the special needs of young people.
  • Migration flows within Viet Nam are dominated by young people aged 15-24, the majority of which are female. Many of these young migrants are especially vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation and drug abuse, which puts them at risk of HIV infection. Awareness needs to be raised among policymakers regarding the importance of providing migrants with adequate access to social services, especially reproductive health services.
  • Roughly 503,400 children and adolescents under 15-years-old are employed in heavy economic activity and an increasing number of children and adolescents enter sex work to escape poverty. A ‘continuum of services’ should be established to assure the protection and welfare of children and young people at all times and at all levels.

In conclusion, the UN Viet Nam panel shared their recommendations for partners to come together and invest in adolescents and young people, including improved data collection and analysis, supporting youth-friendly policy development, creating a supportive environment for adolescent rights, enhancing access to social services, fostering fora and spaces for youth participation and tackling poverty and inequity. In addition, the panel highlighted the need for the government to invest in education and training for young people, create decent work opportunities, increase coordination across sectors, and improve the implementation of policies and law.

“Stakeholders at all levels in Viet Nam must work together to ensure that adolescence truly becomes an age of opportunity,” said Ms. Lotta Sylwander. “The United Nations in Viet Nam stands ready to support the Government of Viet Nam with a concerted response under the One UN Initiative.”

Today’s event was chaired by Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Viet Nam Representative, with additional comments provided by Mr. Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Viet Nam Country Director; Mr. Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Viet Nam Representative; Mr. Florian Forster, IOM Viet Nam Representative; Mr. John Stewart, ILO Viet Nam Labour Market Information Specialist; and Ms. Vu Nguyen Ha Anh, UNICEF Viet Nam’s Goodwill Ambassador.

Click below to download  factsheets on key themes for adolescents in Viet Nam:

Also read the:

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

  • Ms. Sandra Bisin, One UN Communications Office; Tel. 84 4 3822 4383 ext 102; Email:
  • Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong; One UN Communications Office; 84 4 3822 4383 ext 118; Email:





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The State of the World’s Children 2011: Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity

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