Assisting in Emergencies

Helping Young People Affected by Crisis

Young people often represent a large proportion of those affected by crises: In some countries, two thirds of the population is under 25.

Life in crisis zones can be deeply troubling to anyone. Some of the factors that may leave young people in such situations especially vulnerable include:

Such factors may lead to early sexual initiation and other high-risk behaviour, including drug and alcohol abuse. Displaced young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV, and they urgently need information and services to protect themselves from disease and unintended pregnancies.

When general information networks break down, it becomes all the more important to make sure that young people have access to basic information about HIV, as well as to other issues regarding their sexual and reproductive health. General education is vital as well, both to give young people a sense of structure and ordinary life and to build a foundation on which their societies can grow. Yet half of the world's out-of-school children live in conflict or post-conflict countries.

Those who have been severely traumatized, such as child combatants, are likely to need rehabilitation and family reunification services, as well as specialized psychological and physical health care.

In the aftermath of crises, young people with no way to earn a living may end up on the streets, be forced into selling their bodies to survive, or subjected to trafficking or other forms of exploitation. For this reason, protection programmes and the provision of vocational training and other life skills education can be instrumental in helping them put their lives back together.

UNFPA in Action

UNFPA places a high priority on safeguarding young people's well-being and broadly supporting their successful transition to adulthood. UNFPA raises awareness of and addresses the specific needs and concerns of young people affected by war or crisis, often using innovative and participatory approaches.
Moving Young, the youth edition of the State of World Population, includes first-person stories that illustrate the toll that war and displacement take on the young.
In Colombia, where at least two million people have been displaced by the 30-year internal conflict, a UNFPA-supported project uses drama, role-playing, music and dance to help young people express themselves and overcome the trauma they have experienced. Health providers visit twice a week to talk about reproductive health and prevention and offer services. Participants in the programme acquire the tools to challenge harmful aspects of gender relations, resist peer pressure, address sexual violence and raise their self-esteem, all of which can lead to healthier choices.
In Serbia and Bosnia, young people who have been displaced or orphaned by conflict are working with trained peer educators and counsellors through the UNFPA-supported Y-PEER network. The programme uses a variety of techniques, including role playing, improvisational theatre, discussion groups and counselling to inform, engage and assist young people in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, gender issues and communications.
In Sierra Leone, a multi-faceted programme addresses the educational, psycho-social and health needs of young women traumatized and sexually exploited during the conflict in that country. It also helps them develop vocational skills and provide micro-credit to enable them to become self supporting.

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