) The virtual meeting was chaired by Secretary General of Lao Youth Union Alounxay Sounnalath with Co-chair UNFPA Lao Country Representative Mariam Khan.
Representatives from the government ministries, mass organizations, CSOs, International Organisations and young people participated in the event.
The Lao Youth Union (LYU) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also held discussions on the impacts of COVID19 on adolescents and young people.
Officially endorsed by the Prime Minister in December 2020, Laos’ National Youth and Adolescent Development Strategy will be implemented by concerned ministries and agencies including mass organizations from central to local levels.
It provides strategic directions to relevant ministries to create necessary provisions, allocate budgets and implement programmes and projects for health, education, employment, protection and participation of adolescents and young people. Additional resources will be mobilized and budgets allocated by the government to ministries and public agencies for interventions as needed.
The strategy will also mobilize technical and financial support from international organizations, development partners and the private sector.
“This strategy will help the country in improving its human capital that will contribute in achieving the objectives of 9th National Socio-economic Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals with the vision of leaving no one behind,” said Mr. Alounxay Sounnalath.
The discussions at the launch highlighted the COVID-19 impacts on adolescent and young people in various areas including, education, reproductive and sexual health, mental health and psychosocial issues as well as socio-economic impacts. The COVID-19 impact assessment, showed secondary school dropout and unintended pregnancy are projected to increase due to disruptions in schooling and in access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning services. The assessment also indicates young people whose education and work are interrupted are almost twice as likely to have anxiety and depression. Adolescent girls and young women are at increased risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as child marriage.
To address these issues, it is recommended to invest more on youth-focused COVID-19 response taking into account the needs of adolescent and young people including adolescents with disability to ensure inclusiveness.
Data collection particularly disaggregated data is needed to inform planning, as well as engaging adolescents and young people as agents of change participating in the discussion and decision making that impacts their lives. Valuable suggestions were made by the Vice Minister of Home Affairs and from members of the National Assembly.
UNFPA Lao Country Representative Mariam A. Khan congratulated LYU for the development of the strategy. She said “The pandemic calls for immediate and mid to long term strategic responses for addressing the impact of COVID19 on adolescents and young people.”
She further emphasized that, “over half of the population in Laos is below 24 years of age, which provides a window of opportunity for realising a demographic dividend.” “However, the demographic dividend can only be realised if the youth are educated, empowered and have access to employment and economic opportunities,” she added.
UNFPA Laos works closely with LYU to empower adolescents and young people through youth-focused interventions including advocacy, data collection, establishment of counselling and Mental Health Psycho social hotlines, provision of essential service package, comprehensive sexuality education online learning and the Noi Yakhoo mobile Apps, campaigns and risk communication to raise awareness and engage youth to fight against COVID19.
Engaging with youth as partners is a core strategy of UNFPA work and the strategy was developed through an extensive consultative process under the leadership of LYU. A series of consultations with adolescents and young people, concerned line ministries and other stakeholders were organized at all levels. Implementation of the strategy will continue to be inclusive of all concerned stakeholders.
Source: Lao News Agency