Millions of adolescents falling behind, especially in Africa – UNICEF report


Millions of adolescents falling behind, especially in Africa – UNICEF report

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UNICEF Statistics and Monitoring Associate Director Tessa Wardlaw speaks at the launch of Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents, at UNICEF House. She is holding a copy of the report. The podium bears the UNICEF logo.  On 24 April 2012, UNICEF launched Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents at UNICEF House. The report calls for increased attention to, and investment in, all aspects of the lives of the worlds 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10 and 19 years. Globally, despite significant health and education progress over the past 20 years, an estimated 1.4 million adolescents die each year from traffic injuries, childbirth complications, suicide, AIDS and other causes. Children entering adolescence are also increasingly at risk of violence, both domestic and other forms. Additionally, while 90 per cent of children of primary school age are in school, 71 million children of lower secondary school age do not attend school and 127 million young people, aged 15-24 years, are illiterate. Adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa  a group that is projected to be the largest adolescent population in the world by 2050  are particularly at risk. All these challenges combine to impede adolescent contributions to positive change  in environments where they can be both protected and encouraged to maximize their creativity, innovation and energy  helping to solve their own problems and problems in their communities. The Lancets Adolescent Series on Health was also launched at the event.

NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 24 April 2012 – Over the past 20 years, adolescents have benefitted from progress in education and public health. Yet the needs of many adolescents are neglected with more than 1 million losing their lives each year and tens of millions more missing out on education, says a new UNICEF report today.

The report, for example, identifies sub-Saharan Africa as the most challenging place for an adolescent to live. The adolescent population of the region is still growing, and it is projected to have the greatest number of adolescents in the world by 2050. But only half the children in sub-Saharan Africa complete primary school and youth employment is low.

Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents highlights other alarming consequences of the benefits of progress not being equally shared among the total of 1.2 billion adolescents – defined by the United Nations as between the ages of 10 and 19 – now living in all the regions of the world.

“The disadvantages of poverty, social status, gender or disability prevent millions of adolescents from realising their rights to quality education, health care, protection and participation,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “This comprehensive report card strengthens our understanding of the problems facing the poorest and most disadvantaged adolescents. It is time to attend to their needs; they must not be left behind.”

(Left-right) Azara Mohammed, 14, and Humu Baba, 13, visit a guinea-worm containment centre in the town of Savelugu, capital of Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region. Both children were previously infected with guinea-worm disease, a painful and debilitating infection caused by a parasite ingested through drinking contaminated water. Children under 16, who are more likely to play in or drink from infected water sources, are most affected. [#1 IN SEQUENCE OF TWO]  In September 2008 in Ghana, economic growth and government reforms continue to improve the lives of children and families. The country is on track to achieve several United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, progress is uneven. The northern regions, which account for half of the countrys population living below the poverty line, are the most impoverished, and there are wide regional and rural/urban disparities in child and maternal mortality. And while 78 per cent of the entire population has access to improved drinking water sources and 60.7 per cent have access to improved sanitation, the north lags well behind these percentages. Working with the Government and other partners, UNICEF supports health, nutrition, education and protection interventions, as well as a range of integrated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions, including to eradicate guinea-worm disease in endemic districts.A 13 year old adolescent girl, Kavita Vijay.  UNICEF India/2010/Giacomo Pirozzi
A girl, 15 years old and pregnant, leans against a wall in the city of Maburaka. She became pregnant while in secondary school. The father of the baby disappeared when he learned of her situation. Pregnancy is the third most common reason students drop out of primary school.  In March 2009 in Sierra Leone, children and adolescents continue to face barriers to protection and education. Infant mortality and under-five mortality rates remain the highest in the world, and nearly a third of the countrys children lack a primary caregiver. Girls are particularly vulnerable, contending with gender-based discrimination and harmful social practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Some 56 per cent of girls marry before the age of 18, and 94 per cent of girls are subject to FGM/C, a procedure that can cause infection, chronic pain, complications during pregnancy and delivery, and increased rates of infant mortality. Education remains a hurdle for all children, with only half of all primary schools presently functioning. Dropout rates are high, particularly among girls, orphans, and children affected by poverty or sexual exploitation. UNICEF is responding to these conditions by working with Government officials and NGOs to rehabilitate schools and implement standards of care for all children. UNICEF is also working with community groups to promote girls education.
Childs View  Students attend class at Celukuphiwa School in Estcourt, a town in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The photograph was taken by Godgiven Mokoena, 17, one of 20 participants in a UNICEF-organized child photography workshop.  In February 2010 in South Africa, UNICEF supported a photography workshop for 20 children in the eastern town of Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal, the countrys poorest province. The participants came from two local schools, including Lyndhurst Primary School, whose motto is education is freedom. Many participants have been affected by HIV/AIDS, some are orphans, and most live in poverty. Only one participant had used a camera before. Crime and sexual violence are also serious problems in the community. South Africa has the highest rates of sexual assault in the world, and some 40 per cent of victims are children. The country also has the largest number of children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. Guided by UNICEF photographer Giacomo Pirozzi, the workshop participants learned basic camera functions and chose to photograph different aspects of daily life in their community. The workshop was supported by Gucci, a UNICEF private sector partner. Gucci is also the largest corporate supporter of Schools for Africa, a programme established in 2004 by UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society. Schools for Africa supports educational programmes in 11 countries, including South Africa. The Lyndhurst Primary School also receives Schools for Africa funding through a Sport for Development programme, which educates children about HIV/AIDS and the risks of too early and unprotected sex.
Childbirth complications lead underdevelopement of adolescent girls
The report points to a significant need for improved investment in all aspects of adolescents’ lives and wellbeing – even in their struggle for survival. Each year 1.4 million adolescents die from road traffic injuries, childbirth complications, suicide, AIDS, violence and other causes. In some Latin American countries, more adolescent boys die as a result of homicide than from road traffic injuries or suicide. In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the top cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19.

Children entering adolescence are increasingly at risk of violence – a shift from early childhood when disease and nutrition are the major threats. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to violence in marriage. In a survey in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 70 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 who had been married said they experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner or spouse.

Adolescents, particularly girls, are often forced to abandon childhood and take on adult roles before they are ready, limiting their opportunities to learn and grow, and placing their health and safety at risk. The report says that over a third of women aged 20 to 24 in developing countries excluding China were married or in a union by the age of 18 with about one third of these being married by age 15.

Adolescent birth rates are relatively high in Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, the report says. In Niger, half of young women aged 20 to 24 gave birth before the age of 18.

Secondary school enrolment remains low in the developing world
Globally, 90 percent of children of primary school age are enrolled in primary schools and secondary education systems have expanded in many countries. Secondary school enrolment however remains low in the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia. Many pupils of secondary school age are in primary schools. Sub-Saharan Africa has the worst secondary education indicators of any region.

Some 71 million children of lower secondary school age worldwide are not in school and 127 million youth between 15 and 24 are illiterate – the vast majority in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The report says significant efforts in advocacy, programmes and policy are needed to realise the rights of all adolescents. Adolescence is a critical stage of childhood at which the right investment can break the poverty cycle and result in social, economic and political benefits for adolescents, communities and nations.

But the report also notes that adolescents should be recognised as real agents of change in their communities. Programmes and policies, while protecting adolescents as children, must acknowledge their capacity for creativity, innovation and energy to solve their problems.

On 5 July, J8 youth delegates review their work on a laptop computer, at the Citizens' Cultural Centre in the city of Chitose on Hokkaido Island. They are: (left-right) Antoine Marie Oliver Bertrand-Hardy of France, Miho Kikuchi of Japan, Alexander Mario Wegner of Germany, Sergey Kononenko of the Russian Federation, Rose Elizabeth Stuart of the United Kingdom, Marco Zabai of Italy, and Nondumiso Thandeka Nkosi of South Africa.  From 2 to 9 July 2008 in Japan, 39 young people from around the world gathered in the city of Chitose on Hokkaido Island for the Junior 8 (J8) Summit, hosted by the Government of Japan and UNICEF. The meeting parallels the annual summit of Heads of State/Government from Group of 8 (G8) countries, also hosted on Hokkaido Island this year. G8 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The J8 Summit provides a platform for young people to discuss global issues, advocate for solutions and actions from world leaders and foster a global youth movement around international issues. Participants, aged 13 to 17, are from all of the G8 countries. Young people from seven developing countries, Barbados, Côte dIvoire, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and South Africa, also participated. The meeting focused on three principal G8 topics: climate change and global warming; poverty and development; and global health, particularly child survival and infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. On 7 July, J8 delegates, selected by their peers, presented their recommendations to G8 leaders at their meeting venue in the nearby town of Toyako. The recommendations asked that world leaders listen to young people and outlined specific proposals to reduce global warming (including the creation of Green Indexes to evaluate the climate-impact of products produced globally); reduce global poverty (including by supporting child rights and conflict resolution); and increase positive health initiatives worldwide (including education on disease prevention and G8 matching funds for developing country health sectors). 26 November 2010, children wearing UNICEF caps and T-shirts raise their hands at the closing ceremony of the National Youth Forum on Children's Rights that took place at the Djado Sekou Cultural Centre in Niamey, the capital of Niger. Child participation in decision-making processes is still a myth in Niger but some noteworthy progress are being achieved thanks to the myriad of efforts undertaken by UNICEF and partners to boost children's expression. Children's viewpoints on matters that concern them can contribute to the creation of a child-friendly environment respectful of their rights in Niger. In Niger more than 9 out of 10 children are deprived of at least one right essential to their well-being, and almost 8 in 10 children are deprived of at least two essential rights simultaneously. UNICEF Niger creates communication platforms that provide space for children to freely express themselves and by advocating for more airtime on radio and television to broadcast shows produced by and for children. At the end of 2010 UNICEF Niger organized a mega children's forum (November 24-26, 2010) bringing together 160 children coming from the country's 36 districts. The forum gave children the unique opportunity to speak out and voice their concerns directly to national authorities, researchers, journalists and UN staff. Children's messages were broadcast on television and radio stations on a daily basis during and after the presidential election in 2010.

Click here to read the full report
Click here to learn about the Facts on Adolescents