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Consultative workshop calls for improved access to health services for vulnerable youth

UNFPA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners today held a high level national consultative workshop aimed at strengthening multi-sectoral response to ensure the health and development of youth working in Industry Parks.  

In his opening remarks, Dr. Dereje Duguma, State Minister of Health indicated that addressing the needs of vulnerable and marginalized youth such as workers in hot spot areas and industry parks will be a key priority of engagement for his Ministry. He stressed that the Ministry will proactively work with the Industry Park Development Commission (IPDC) and other stakeholders to address the sexual and reproductive health and right needs of workers and the surrounding communities through integrated capacity building and service provision interventions.

The synthesis report presented at the event by UNFPA and ILO indicated that there are key behavioral, structural and service level challenges that are compromising the health and wellbeing of workers in the industry parks.  Among the challenges mentioned by the report are lack of friendly and tailored information, sexual harassment and abuse and poor living condition. Lack of comprehensive services and engagement in risky sexual behavior to cope up with low salary were also mentioned as problems. The report mentions that these problems are compounder due to the low educational level, tender age and lack of life-skills that are needed to protect the industrial workers from such problems.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Director of the Maternal and Child Health Directorate with the Ministry of Health, said that the development of the new Adolescent and Youth Health Strategic Plan which is more inclusive and broad in thematic focus than the previous strategy is among the measures taken to address the challenges. She also indicated that the Ministry will reach these target group through the development of a Minimum Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health service package and coordinating stakeholders working in and around the industry parks.

Youth participants requested the Ministry of Health and IPDC to set minimum wage for workers in the industry parks and strengthen the health facility within the parks to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and right services. The participants also called for the design and implementation of systems that prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence that workers face within and out of the parks.

Participants agreed that health facilities and other interventions in the Industry parks need to be part of the broader national and regional health systems in the country.  

The consultative workshop was attended by Ministries, development partners, Regional government sector offices, civil society organizations and youth representatives.