Adolescents 360 is a four-year $30 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, aiming to increase voluntary, modern contraceptive use and reduce unintended pregnancy among adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in three pilot countries — Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia. By applying a user-centered approach, with youth involvement throughout, Adolescents 360 will give girls a say on matters related to their own health, address barriers they face and develop cost-effective solutions to delivering high quality, affordable and accessible voluntary contraceptive information and services to adolescent girls. This piece originally ran on the Financial Times, BeyondBrics blog.
The world is on the cusp of something unprecedented: the largest generation of young people in human history is approaching reproductive age.
Not only is this generation the biggest, it is likely to be the healthiest and most educated the world has ever seen. More have gone to school than in any previous generation. Most of them are vaccinated against the diseases that devastated the populations that came before them. As they have grown, more have benefited from the nutrients their bodies and minds need to develop to their fullest potential. No previous generation has ever been so well-equipped to expand the limits of human possibility.
But for all the investments society has made in this generation, there is one crucial area in which we are falling short: ensuring their access to contraceptives. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of unmarried, sexually active adolescents who want to avoid pregnancy are not using contraceptives. Similarly, one in four married adolescents who want to prevent a pregnancy are not using a contraceptive method. The risks they face are enormous and threaten progress for everyone.
This is why family planning is an issue we should all care about. When a young woman gets pregnant before she turns 20, it can rob her of the chance to live her healthiest and most productive life. A teenager who becomes pregnant faces higher risk of eclampsia and infection. In low and middle-income countries, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for adolescent girls. Thousands more young women survive childbirth but suffer from pregnancy-related health issues for the rest of their lives.
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