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Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health
Improving the health and futures of adolescents and their communities
Adolescence is one of life's most complex stages, when young people take on new responsibilities and experiment with independence. When engaged and supported, adolescents thrive and contribute to communities and families.
When encouraged, they have the potential to change negative social norms and pave a brighter future for themselves and their future families. Yet as adolescents around the world enter puberty, taboos, discomfort and fear prevent parents and other trusted adults from teaching relevant information to help adolescents navigate the complexities of their emerging sexuality.
Global and national health indicators highlight the need to have a greater focus on adolescents. Complications from pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion are a leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19. When girls give birth,there is also increased risk of death and disability to her newborn. Adolescents have one of the highest rates of unmet need for family planning. Young people are at high risk for contracting HIV with 40% of all new HIV infections occurring in 15 to 24 year olds. Sexual violence among adolescents, especially in humanitarian emergencies, also continues to pose significant risks to adolescents. Yet adolescents typically do not have access to high quality sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Save the Children's success in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) programming lies in adopting evidence-based interventions which are designed to suit local social and cultural norms. Our global ASRH programs span the reproductive health lifecycle, with special attention to the needs of very young adolescents (ages 10 to 14), preventing early pregnancy, and addressing the needs of young mothers, who typically lack access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) services. Save the Children is also actively engaged in efforts to make ASRH information and services a routine part of the service delivery package in emergency settings — a critical and neglected gap in most emergencies. Moreover, our work is enhanced by addressing the gender and social norms that create barriers to SRH information and services for adolescents, leading to poor SRH outcomes.
Our Focus Areas
Addressing Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Emergency Response:
Since 2012, Save the Children has been advocating for the inclusion of ASRH programs in emergencies and has maintained global capacity strengthening efforts. Trainings provided knowledge, skills and tools to recognize adolescents’ needs and specifically address ASRH concerns in Save the Children’s humanitarian response efforts. Save the Children has been actively involved in responding to the regional Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and Jordan.
Addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Very Young Adolescents:
Our experts focus on this age group by ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education, strengthening menstrual hygiene management, delaying early marriage, improving access to health services, strengthening protective factors, such as communication with parents, and supporting the formation of positive gender norms.
Delaying Pregnancy through Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Contraception:
Although young people may not be thinking of planning their families, they are thinking about planning their lives and how to achieve their hopes and dreams. Comprehensive sexuality education and contraception is part of this life planning and adolescents need the knowledge and skills to delay and space pregnancies as they become sexually active and plan their futures. Save the Children has integrated family planning, working with local clinics and communities to increase access to contraception and access to comprehensive sexuality education through schools and community groups.
Improving Outcomes for Young Mothers and Delaying Second Pregnancies:
Around the world, early marriage has stripped millions of girls of their childhood and potential and has thrust them into early motherhood. Save the Children recognizes that these young mothers are still girls and need specialized support and services. Through our maternal, newborn and child health programs, Save the Children is in a unique position to address the needs of adolescent mothers, linking them back to schools, increasing their access to family planning services, and engaging their male partners in reflections of power and involvement.
Engaging Youth to Improve Access and Quality of Health Services:
Save the Children's hallmark Partnership Defined Quality for Youth (PDQ-Y) approach engages youth and health service providers in jointly defining barriers to quality adolescent health services, and empowers youth and providers to work together to implement innovative and feasible solutions.
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