14 July 2003


UNFPA Calls for More Action to Support Young People

NEW YORK, 11 July (UNFPA) -- More than 1 billion people are 10 to 19 years old -- the largest youth generation in history.  These adolescents need knowledge, choices and opportunities, and their voices and concerns must be recognized so they can enjoy healthy and productive lives, said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Speaking on World Population Day, 11 July, Ms. Obaid said that too many young people suffer severe consequences because they lack access to adequate education and health care.  More than 70,000 teenage girls are married every day and nearly 40,000 give birth.  “For these young women, this means an incomplete education, limited opportunities and serious health risks”, said Ms. Obaid.

“Assisting girls to complete secondary schooling and delay marriage and childbirth can help break the cycle of poor health, illiteracy and poverty”, she said.  “Stronger efforts are also needed to confront sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.”  Noting that half of all new HIV infections occur among young people, with 6,000 young women and men newly infected every day, Ms. Obaid called for greater education, information and services to help young people protect their health.  She invited leaders “to listen to young people’s concerns and put in place laws, policies and programmes that support their well-being and participation and protect their human rights”.

In a separate message, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the decisions young people make “will shape our world and the prospects of future generations”.  He encouraged recognition of “their right to the health, information and services they need and deserve”.

This year’s World Population Day will be marked with a variety of events worldwide.  The observation will also coincide with the release of UNFPA’s Country Profiles for Population and Reproductive Health:  Policy Development and Indicators 2003.  The Profiles represent the first comprehensive collection of population-related data, with key demographic, social and economic indicators from 171 countries and territories.  Available at www.unfpa.org/profile, the Profiles describe each country’s population and reproductive health policies, and progress in such areas as reducing maternal mortality.

For more information, please contact:  Micol Zarb, tel.: +1 (212) 297 5042, e-mail: zarb@unfpa.org; or Omar Gharzeddine, tel.: +1 (212) 297-5028, e-mail: gharzeddine@unfpa.org.

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