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UN report on sexual health of young people sets down global challenges which cannot be ignored

By October 7, 2003News

– Release date: 08 October 2003

The Irish Family Planning Association has said that the focus on young people’s health and rights in this year’s State of the World Population Report was welcome and timely.

The State of the World Population Report, launched at 12 noon today in Dublin, is the flagship annual report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This year it examines the sexual and reproductive health needs of the world’s largest ever generation of adolescents.

Chairing the launch of the report, Catherine Heaney, Chief Executive of the IFPA, which is the collaborative partner of the UNFPA in Ireland, said, “this report sets out real challenges for governments and policy makers worldwide about the way we deal with and respond to the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people. As the report states, young people’s needs are last to be addressed when it comes to sexual and reproductive health.

“However, some of the frightening statistics show that the needs of young people cannot be ignored: young people aged 15 – 24 account for half of the 5 million new cases of HIV infection each year. Young women aged 15 –19 account for one quarter of the 20 million cases of unsafe abortions every year. And pregnancy is a leading cause of death for young women: girls under 15 are five times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than women in their twenties.

“Reversing these trends is an immense challenge which requires resources, commitment and an acknowledgment that sexual and reproductive health education and services for young people are critical in development strategies.

“While some governments may feel uncomfortable about investing in sexual and reproductive health programmes for young people, failure to do so will exacerbate poverty, dependency and disease for future generations.“

The IFPA said that it would be unwise to view the challenges set out in the report as only relevant to developing countries. “Trafficking, abuse and the threat of genital mutilation are some of the anecdotal reasons cited by unaccompanied minors as to why they are seeking asylum in Ireland. In the context of the scenarios and statistics set out in the UNFPA report, the needs of these young people should be met sensitively.

“While the indicators presented in the report, show Ireland falls broadly into line with it’s EU partners when it comes to life expectancy and participation in education, teen births (15-19 year olds) are higher, being three times that of the Netherlands and twice that of Sweden. In fact, the Irish teenage birth rate is only surpassed by Britain and our statistics are more comparable to countries such as Poland, Albania and the Czech Republic. This shows that we still have some way to go in terms of quality sex education and service provision for young people,” added Catherine Heaney.

Useful Link: State of the World Population Reports