Monday, 28 April 2008

Investing in Young People at 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

African governments should urgently invest in programs that focus and enhance the health and development of young people says experts at the uniquely designed international conference on Young People's Health and Development that opened on Sunday in Abuja, Nigeria.

The three day conference brought together an assembly of researchers, academicians and policy makers in a series of interaction and knowledge sharing to promote and better prepare the youth for the new world.

The conference dubbed "Youth Deliver the Future" Investing in Young People's Health and Development: Research that Improves Policies and Programs, seeks to find solutions to various problems facing youth.

These problems include lack of access to education, health and information services, increased HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases, early marriages, unintended pregnancies and death from unsafe abortions, drug abuse, mental illnesses, death in road crashes, and acquiring poor nutritional and exercise habits among others.

Speaking during the opening ceremony held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria's First Lady Hajia Turai Umar Yar'Adua in a speech read on her behalf by the Minister of Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal, said to reduce the risks young people are faced with and promote their positive development, nations and societies must invest in young people more than ever before.

The First Lady said young people hold the key to the future and the slogan of this conference, "Youth deliver the future" is therefore an apt one.

Mrs Yar Adua noted that the youth who will effectively deliver on the future is one that has been adequately prepared for the future and one in whom the society has sufficiently invested in to ensure maximal development and provide relevant opportunities to optimize his or her potential.

"Without proper development of young people there will be no future development anywhere" she emphasized.

She reiterated the need to optimize youth development investments through evidence-based policies and programs.

"Today the world has the largest number of young people ever recorded in history -approximately two billion people between the ages of 10 to 24, most of whom are in Africa and Asia, therefore the need to confront the challenges facing young people in various areas of development has never been greater".

She said the substantial increase in the number of young people globally presents more opportunities than challenges and added that equipping this energetic and technologically-minded group with the best of resources offers opportunity to move the world forward like never before. She said investing in youth will help the world achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDG's).

She hoped the conference will enable the world to commit themselves to the new development of the future generation. She further reiterated her government's renewed commitment to the health and development of young people as evidenced by the recent launch of a new National Policy on Health and Development of Adolescents and other Young People in Nigeria, and increasing investment in related programmes.

Minister for Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal said there is need to take all necessary measures to invest in young people's health and development so that Africa can enjoy the demographic bonus of this age group.

The conference is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health John Hopkins University in partnership with Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University of Ibadan and Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awololo University.

By Redemtor Atieno
Kenya freelance journalist

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