Revisiting the promise of Cairo

Dahlia is a youth advocate from Cairo who was an infant when the ICPD Programme of Action was launched. Watch this video to see why the commitments made then are as important today as they were 20 years ago.


At least 28% of the world’s population, an unprecedented number of young people require the same opportunities and resources as the rest of the world, and rightfully so. Sexual and reproductive health and rights, education with vocational training, and employment are top priorities amongst youth today according to research gathering by the ICPD Global Survey.

Of the estimated 197 million unemployed people reported in 2012 by the ICPD Global Review Report, nearly 40% were between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Youth unemployment rates are a global concern, and in 2012 were highest in the Middle East and North Africa, at 28% and 24%, respectively, and lowest in East Asia, at 10% and South Asia, at 9%. The youth unemployment rate for the Developed Economies and European Union in 2012 was estimated at 18% -- the highest level in this region in the past two decades.

Damjen Nikolovski, a youth advocate from Skopje, Macedonia was a just a child in 1994 when the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place in Cairo. The issues negotiated back in 1994 continue to be relevant, and particularly for Nikolovski and his peers twenty years later in 2014.

 “Not being able to be economically and socially stable and independent is the main burning issue facing the youth today,” says Nikolovski. “[Governments should] invest in young people; invest in more job opportunities for them; invest in ways they can gain work experience so they can get more easily employed.”

As an activist, Nikolovski is motivated to implement the goals and recommendations of the ICPD Programme of Action around the issues that relate most to his daily life. Nikolovski believes that assisting the youth will promote economic and social growth, and help mitigate problems with fertility and the aging population. His personal suggestion is that governments should focus less on raising fertility rates, and instead concentrate on younger generations which will not only grow the workforce, but help accelerate sustainable development.

When young people can claim their right to health, education and decent working conditions, they become a powerful force for economic development and positive change. See what Nikolovski has to say about population issues through his lens at home in Eastern Europe in this video.

“It is an appalling fact that in our world of modern medical advances, nearly 800 women still die from pregnancy-related complications each day," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  on May 23, 2014 on International Fistula Day. "For every woman who dies, almost 20 more are injured or disabled with severe or life-shattering, long-term conditions, such as obstetric fistula.”

 Obstetric fistulas are all but eliminated from the developed world, yet continues to affect the world’s most vulnerable: women and girls living in under-resourced regions in the world.  According to the ICPD Global Review Report, an estimated 2 to3.5 million women live with obstetric fistula in the developing world. Most cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where adolescent births are highest and access to emergency obstetric care is low, with 50,000 to 100,000 new cases developing each year.

 Obstetric fistulas are a failure of the global healthcare community to protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. When there is equity in the distribution and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, obstetric fistulas no longer make victims out of women and young girls.

 “Failures to recognize, prioritize and invest in adolescents and their sexual and reproductive health have fatal consequences: high rates of HIV that can lead to early death; unplanned and unwanted early pregnancies, with exacerbated risks for maternal mortality and morbidity, such as obstetric fistula; and higher rates of infant and child mortality,” sites the report in reference to targeted youth programming.

 Obstetric fistula, a largely preventable health condition leaves millions of women are shunned from their families. Fistula is an injury to a women’s body during a long difficult multi-day labour. The injury is disfiguring, devastating, and life-shattering for women. Over 90% of fistula cases result in stillbirth. Further damaging is the painful reality women are left experiencing incontinence, and the uncontrollable leaking of faecal matter. These tragic outcomes often result in women being abandoned by their husbands and loved ones due to the humiliating stench the body creates from fistulas.

 Preventing fistula is already possible. Surgical operations to restore a woman’s continence costs $400 USD per patient. According to a UNFPA study, $65 USD an initial Caesarean section can prevent the condition from occurring. In the Global Review Reports Health chapter, it is recommended that, “states implement measures to ensure the elimination of obstetric fistula through the provision of high quality maternal health care to all women, and provide for the rehabilitation and reintegration of fistula survivors into their communities.”

 Additionally, The Global Campaign to End Fistula provides support for fistula prevention, as well as treatment and social reintegration for those who have suffered this severe condition.

 Watch our video narrated by pop singer Natalie Imbruglia, the spokesperson for the UNFPA-led Help End the Shame campaign to learn more about this preventable condition. 

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