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  Global Views
Youth Appeal to UN to Prioritise Health
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon was elected on Oct. 13, 2006 as Secretary General of the United Nations while he was serving as South Korea's foreign minister. Mr. Ban was officially inaugurated as UN secretary general on Jan. 1, 2007.

Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General will receive concerns of over a million youth from around the world, including South Korea, voicing concern on health issues in September 2007.

The young people of the world have raised vital concerns for UN to act upon. These concerns include:

- Nearly one-third of the children in the developing world remain under nourished or stunted, while 30% of the developing world's population suffers from deficiencies of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)

- The number of overweight and obese children has more than doubled in the last 25 years, carrying the risk of several chronic diseases in adulthood

- Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years - to 300,000 people a year

- Globally the number of people suffering from asthma has increased nearly 50% because of worsening air pollution

- By 2025, one third of world's population would not have access to any form of water

- Worldwide, 5 million people die of tobacco related diseases each year. The World Health Organization has predicted that by the year 2025, 500 million people worldwide will have died from tobacco related illnesses

- Of the estimated 39.5 million people living with HIV in 2006, young people (below 25 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide - around 6,000 become infected with HIV every day. Women accounted for 48% of all adults living with HIV worldwide and are especially vulnerable in conditions of gender inequality.

UN had identified Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for equitable social development, poverty alleviation and improvement in the health of global populations. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world's countries and leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the poorest. Halfway to a 2015 deadline, there has been clear progress towards implementing the Millennium Development Goals. But their overall success is still far from assured, Millennium Development Goals Progress Report 2007 prepared by the United Nations has found.

Youth-For-Health (http://y4h.hriday-shan.org/una.php ) initiated a global campaign to mobilize youth to strengthen advocacy efforts to make their voices heard, and be counted. The campaign believes that many of the present policies, which have a profound impact on health, development and environment, are likely to impact adversely on the present and future health of our generation. The campaign urges the United Nations to seriously consider how such policies can be recast to promote and protect the health in a sustainable manner.

Global Youth Action on Tobacco (GYAT) - www.gyatnetwork.org - a worldwide network of hundreds of youth with a significant representation from developing countries - has demonstrated commitment to improve the quality and accountability of tobacco control responses, by facilitating information, dialogue and advocacy platforms for engaging youth in a meaningful and inclusive manner - globally. Young people leading GYAT have been monitoring tobacco industry interference in health policy around the world and have played a key role in building youth leadership in health initiatives globally.

The Youth-For-Health has come up with a charter which calls for:

- Strict enforcement of food and agricultural policies which will make healthy food (like fruits and vegetables) available to all at affordable prices and regulate unhealthy foods (like those containing high proportions of trans-fats and refined sugars)

- Urban planning which promotes safe and pleasurable physical activity (by providing green areas, safe pedestrian pathways and protected cycle lanes)

- Strong tobacco control policies and programmes; establishing smoke-free public and work places to overcome the hazards associated with passive smoking

- Peer to peer learning to prevent HIV/AIDS among youth

- Augmenting gender equality and gender respect

- Peace and non violent resolution of conflicts

- Effectively disseminating heath awareness through mass media

It is encouraging to see informed youth voices getting centre-stage in advocating for a better world. Although health policy discourses have been dominated by 'experts' for long, it will be a major shift in recognising the wisdom of giving a space for the young people to participate meaningfully in the discourses for policy change.

Bobby Ramakant
(The author is a senior journalist writing on health and development issues for newspapers in Asia and Africa. He can be contacted at: bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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