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Ambassador Hamamoto’s Remarks at WHA Side Event on Adolescent Girls’ Health: Approaches to Ensuring the Future
May 20, 2015

World Health Assembly 68
May 20, 2015

Dear esteemed colleagues and friends, welcome and thank you for coming to our side event on adolescent girls health.  The United States, along with Brazil, Chile, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, The WHO secretariat, UNFPA and UNAIDS is excited to be having this important conversation during the World health Assembly.

Adolescent health, and in particular that of girls, is an issue that is close to my heart as one of my priorities is to consistently highlight the female dimension in the global challenges we face.  This was one of the key drivers behind the U.S. Mission’s new initiative – The Future She Deserves – which among other things, aims to engage the Geneva community around new ways to work together to ensure adolescent girls have access to the full range of appropriate health services. We must provide strategies that are developmentally appropriate for addressing the various stages of adolescent development (i.e., early, mid, and late).   We also need to encourage a multi-sectoral approach, and engagement with all stakeholders, in order to develop policies and programs that help create a supportive environment for adolescent health, safety, and well-being.

As the WHO has described it, adolescence is our second chance to get it right in the second decade of life. Adolescence is the time of life where patterns for health over the life course are set, so we need to be there, with the right approach, in the right places and at the right time.  We will hear from some of the adolescents working on the front lines today – a youth advocate from Australia working on mental health issues and from Mexico working on both preventing gender-based violence and assisting young victims of gender-based violence.

I am pleased to report that since many of us met in January during the WHO Executive Board and discussed the work being done by the secretariat developing a framework for accelerated action on adolescent health issues, much has happened. Discussion on the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health has been underway, and we will hear some of the early results from our panel today.

During our panel discussion today, we will take a quick look back to better understand how far we have come — with Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director at the United Nations Population Fund, and Marleen Temmerman, Director for Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization.

We will then hear from some early innovators about the programs they have put in place in their own countries and regions to deliver appropriate health services to girls.  Matilde Maddaleno Herrera is here from Chile and is in the throes of operationalizing their integrated program for adolescent health; Mr. C.K. Mishra, from India, will discuss India’s multi-sectoral work helping adolescent girls develop an increased awareness of their own sexual and reproductive health issues, and ensuring access to services, preventing violence, and staying in school. And Dr. Lumena Furtado is here from Brazil to present Brazil’s ongoing work program approach in addressing the health needs of adolescent girls.

From the United States, Dawn O’Connell will discuss several innovative approaches we have taken to tackle an issue that had bedeviled us for decades:  teen pregnancy.  The Minister of Health from Tanzania, Mr. Seif Rashidi is with us today to present examples of scaling up quality adolescent-friendly health services and how to best support adolescents getting the sexual and reproductive health services they need, and importantly, ensuring this support is delivered in a friendly and non-judgmental manner.  The Minister of Health and Childcare, Dr. P.D. Parirenyatwa, is here from Zimbabwe to share some of the innovative funding mechanisms they have created to ensure the health needs of adolescents are met.  We will close this section with remarks from William Yeung, a youth advocate for mental health services in Australia, who is doing great work with people his own age in raising awareness more broadly.

Finally, we will discuss the way forward. Tim Shand from Promundo, is doing innovative work engaging men and boys as allies in women’s and children’s health issues.  As I mentioned earlier, Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, a youth leader from “Women We Deliver,” will discuss her work with “Espolea” in Mexico to prevent gender-based violence.  And Dr Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, will tell us about UNAIDS’ “ALL IN” initiative to reduce new infections by at least 75% by 2020 and to reduce AIDS-related deaths among adolescents by 65%.

I look forward to hearing all about the innovative and collaborative work being done by these impressive panelists, and hope that through these discussions we can further identify critical gaps that still exist and what we can do collectively to provide better, more complete health services to adolescent girls around the world.