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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – July 1, 2002: Reproductive Health Report - 2002-06-28

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A new report has been released about sexual and reproductive health education for young people around the world. Population Action International carried out the study. This not-for-profit organization is based in New York City.

Researchers examined how seven countries dealt with the reproductive health needs of their young people. The countries are Mexico, Iran, India, Ghana, Mali, the Netherlands and the United States.

The study found that, except for the Netherlands, most countries are not doing enough to teach young people the information they need about reproductive health. For example, there are a growing number of reproductive health programs in Mali. Yet seventy percent of the nineteen-year-old women in Mali are pregnant or have a child. Twenty percent of the women are married by age fifteen.

In Mexico, the government supports a program of sex education and family planning. However, teachers receive little or no training on the subject. Some do not teach the subject at all.

Amy Coen is the head of Population Action International. She says the need for reproductive health policies around the world has never been greater. The group estimates that half of the world’s population is younger than twenty-five. That is three-thousand-million young people. Within the next fifteen years, all of them will have reached reproductive age.

Population Action International says that countries will suffer if they fail to provide boys and girls with the information they need to stay healthy and in school. It says young people need to know about sexuality, family planning and having babies. It says young people also should have the ability to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancies.

In many countries, talking about sex and reproduction is considered wrong or against tradition. The group reports a strong resistance among parents, teachers and policy makers to discuss issues of sexuality with young people. It says this lack of openness is putting young people at risk. Young people have a high risk of diseases spread by sexual activity, including AIDS. Half of all new infections of the AIDS virus are among people younger than twenty-five.

Population Action International says countries that avoid open communication about this subject harm their populations.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.