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National Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategy (AYRH) for Ethiopia was launched on Tuesday (10 April) in the country's capital, Addis Ababa , under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and partners.

“Adolescents and youth represent nearly one-third of the Ethiopian population, making youth programmes a real priority in addressing sexual and reproductive health issues,” said Monique Rakotomalala, UNFPA's Representative to Ethiopia in a speech at the launch event.

In a country where over 30 per cent of the population is between ages 10 and 24, spanning the eight-year period between now and 2015, the Ethiopia youth strategy is primarily geared towards empowering young people to access and fully utilize quality reproductive health information and services.

The first of its kind on the African continent, the strategy was written in consultation within a multi-sectoral committee that included the Ministry of Health, its Family Health department, line ministries, youth associations, national and international non-governmental organizations, the UNFPA, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Family Health International, US AID, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Population Council, Pathfinder International, and the European Commission, among others.

“The Government of Ethiopia is committed to improving the reproductive health status of young Ethiopians, 10-24 years,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Health of Ethiopia in his opening letter for the strategy.

Recognizing the group as among the most vulnerable in society, to the minister, by empowering youth to make voluntary informed choices over their reproductive health, the country will be offering youth the choice to fully participate in its development.

“UNFPA places a high priority on safeguarding young people's rights, promoting gender equality and equity, and broadly supporting their successful transition to adulthood,” said Monique Rakotomalala. To this end, as the lead United Nations agency on youth in the country, UNFPA invested over US$200,000 in the development of the strategy.

“Together with the Ministry of Health and other partners, we intend to get this strategy off the ground, and apply it to improve the quality of living of young people in this country,” said Rakotomalala. “The development of the document is not an end in itself – important next steps include a fully costed action plan, implementation of this plan, monitoring and evaluation, documentation and dissemination of results and challenges,” she said.

UNFPA targets adolescents and youth in Ethiopia in family life education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment, focusing on literacy and social change to prevent early marriage, the ‘Leave no Woman Behind' programme, addressing gender-based violence, as well as HIV/AIDS projects.