UNICEF report shows teens in the Americas face their share of challenges

LatinaLista — It’s not surprising that the global profile of today’s 1.2 billion adolescents (10-19-years-old) is an uneven one as outlined in the latest report issued by UNICEF titled “Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents.”

Regardless of the country, the report clearly shows that young people are being thrust more and more into adult situations or are having to deal with issues before their time. On top of that, teens are adopting very serious health vices that are known to shorten or impair their lives as they get older.

The report revealed that:

  • 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.
  • Adolescent birth rates are relatively high in Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The only industrialized country among the top 10 countries with the highest number of adolescent births is the United States.
  • Honduras is the only country of the Americas in the top twenty list of countries with high prevalence of early childbearing. In other words, Honduras has high percentage of young women 20–24 years old who gave birth before age 15 and before age 18.
  • 127 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate, the vast majority of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • An estimated 2.2 million adolescents, around 60 per cent of them girls, are living with HIV, and many do not know they are infected. Overall, the levels of correct knowledge about HIV among older adolescents aged 15–19 remain low, with fewer girls having correct knowledge than boys.
  • In Nicaragua, 24 percent of adolescent girls aged 15–19 are either married or in union; in Colombia, this figure is 14 percent.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest prevalence of adolescent tobacco use – 26 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls aged 13–15.

It makes sense that in countries that are more developed — less domestic conflict, greater equitable access to education, social services and food — adolescents do better in those countries. Yet, these are not the countries where teens make the highest proportion of the country’s population.

At one time, a national alarm would have been sounded, and it is, but there is a flicker of more hope than in years past when such news was made public. There is greater hope that the fortunes of these affected teens can be turned around because of something that didn’t exist even five years ago — social media.

Officials hope that through social media, these young people will learn of how much better their lives can be and take the initiative to do something about it to change their lives and those of their peers in other parts of the world.

There’s no reason to think these young people can’t spur change — they’re already doing it!

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