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COVID-19 impact on adolescents at the heart of the discussions of the 6th Adolescent Research Day

Researchers, experts and practitioners from the government, academic and development sectors in Laos and other countries presented recent research evidence on adolescent health and development during the annual Adolescent Research Day (ARD) 2021 under the theme Protection of Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of COVID-19.

The event was organized by the Lao Tropical and Public Health Institute (TPHI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with support from the Government of Luxembourg.

Minister of Health Bounfeng Phoummalaysith emphasized “The research findings are always the strong evidence that serve for policy development or policy adaptation based on the current health situation and local context, which in turn will be beneficial for Lao people at large. The study findings, also serve to evaluate the accomplishments of health policy implementation across the country.”

The 6th ARD focused on the impact of COVID-19 on adolescent health and development and protection strategies in four main areas: 1). Adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights including adolescent pregnancy and family planning; 2). Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of adolescents; 3). Gender equality among adolescents and protection from harmful practices such as early marriage and gender-based violence; 4). Education, vocational skills, aspirations and options.

UNFPA Country Representative for Lao PDR Mariam A. Khan emphasized “solid, recent data and research evidence helps guide investment, planning and implementation of interventions to support the lives of adolescent girls and boys.” “This forum can improve understanding about promising practices to address adolescent pregnancy, unmet need for family planning, gender-based violence, mental health and psychosocial issues and school drop-out during and post COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

The sessions linked analysis with the priorities of the 9th Socio-Economic Development Plan, the Noi 2030 Framework and SDGs, aimed to empower adolescents and young people in Laos as a driving force for sustainable socio-economic development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted adolescent lives and significantly impacted their health, wellbeing and comprehensive development. With increased risks for adolescent girls to fall into sexual exploitation, gender based violence, school dropout and early marriage.

Unintended pregnancies in Laos are likely to increase by 15.46% (44,322) in the best-case scenario, and potentially by up to 23.9 per cent (68,541) in 2020-2021, according to an analysis by UNFPA. Of these unintended pregnancies, 35% are expected to occur among girls 15 to 24 years of age.

Acting Director of Lao TPHI Latsamy Siengsouthone said “on behalf of Lao TPHI, I would like to express my sincere thanks to leaders from the Ministry of Health for their strong commitments and I am grateful to UNFPA Lao PDR and the Government of Luxembourg for their strong supports and continued working together in collective efforts over the past 5 years.”

At the forum, the participants discussed plans and interventions to move forward, with a focus on COVID-19 resilience and boosting innovative initiatives in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, mental health, education, gender-based violence with the vision of leaving no one behind in rural areas, including adolescents with disabilities, ethnic groups and those belonging to poor households.

Source: Lao News Agency