More than just a theme: Maternal-Neonatal Health & the International Youth Day 2013

In my already highly energized magical month of August, sees yet another call for global celebrations focusing on young people. It all happens on every August 12 (so mark that on your 2014 calendar if you haven’t) under the name International Youth Day.  This year’s match day theme was “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.”

As advocates dedicated to advancing the maternal and neonatal health of our current and future, you might as well wonder what the hell youth migration is got to do with maternal and neonatal health! Lets see… .  

clip_image002Amplifying youth voices for community change. A meeting for the best from each district, out of over 217,000 U-reporters in Uganda at the International Youth Day Celebrations!Graceland Hotel.” (Photo by Caroline B Rukundo)


I work with my colleagues in the UN to bring the UN closer to youth and to respond to the needs of young people around the world. Traveling the world to advocate with governments and all actors to work with and for young people and ensure that our world is a better place for this generation and the generations to come.
Today is the international youth day and I am honored and humbled to spend it in Uruguay at the Latin American Youth Forum and later in the field visiting ma
rginalized youth. I visited 4 villages and met brilliant young people with big dreams. The UN is proud to help bringing them back to education after they dropped out. I told them that education brings opportunities and opportunities bring hope, and that we can’t live without hope. The United Nations came here today to tell you how proud of you we are and that we stand with YOUth.
In the international youth day, special thanks to all my colleagues in the UN system who are dedicating their careers to youth empowerment, and thanks to all youth workers around the world. A day to celebrate and a day to remind all of their responsibilities toward this generation! Happy Youth Day my friends

Photo credits: UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth-Ahmad Alhendawi

According to the UN Secretary-General’s message for 2013, Of the annual total of some 214 million international migrants, young people constitute more than 10 per cent. Nearly half of the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—is under the age of 25. Furthermore, young people under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. Youth are recognized as one of the most mobile social groups in the context of migration – they form about 30% of international migrants! Needless to say, there is too little documentation about their struggles, opportunities and experiences that migration presents for young migrants and other youth who are affected by migration.

And you can’t blame them, no?  Some are fleeing persecution, others are escaping economic hardship.  Some are alone, others part of a family – with parents, siblings and even children of their own.  Some have communities to go to, others must make new connections.  In transit and at their final destinations, many young migrants face equal or greater struggles, including racism, xenophobia, discrimination and human rights violations.  Poverty, crowded and unsanitary living conditions and the challenges of finding decent employment are regular features of the migrant experience.  These challenges are exacerbated by the current global economic and financial crisis.  Migrants are also often accused by communities and politicians of taking jobs from local people, exposing them to further risk of discrimination.  In other cases, young people left behind by migrating parents face psychological and social challenges and greater vulnerability.

Here is how the situation gets salty: During the process of migration, young women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion often culminating into #youngmothersparadigm. Its not a doubt that migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, more than 2.6 million babies are stillborn, another 2.9 million die before they are a month old, and many suffer neurodevelopment disabilities and impairments. Most neonatal deaths are caused by preterm birth, asphyxia during birth, and infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis.

But, effective, low-cost interventions are available, although they are not reaching all of the young women and babies who need them. In developing countries, many young women deliver at home and rarely see a trained healthcare provider before or after the baby’s birth. Skilled providers in poor countries often lack access to current tools or do not use them. Young headed families may not seek care or follow medical advice, leave alone the already stress factors (of provision of food, shelter, accommodation) boiling in the head of a young father living in this already multidynamic world of modernity where a poor man is a nobody! This year’s international youth day theme wasn’t any other theme: It reverberated the underlying factors to maternal and neonatal health and we need to raise awareness about the situation of these young people as well as the role of youth-led organizations in addressing migration issues!

Disclaimer: Views expressed here in do not reflect those of my current and future employers


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