Pulse

The young boost

Poonam Muttreja | Updated on January 24, 2021

Ray of hope: Over 50 per cent of Indians are under 25 years of age, making us a young nation   -  MOHAMMED YOUSUF

It’s time to push for health of adolescents

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of humanity, but its impact has been disproportionately severe on those already vulnerable. But an issue that has received little attention is how this pandemic has impacted our young citizens and adolescents.

The challenges routinely faced by adolescents — including age at marriage, teenage motherhood and inadequate education — have been accentuated by the pandemic. The shutdown of educational institutions impacted 320 million children. There is a fear that many of them may not return to schools. School closures have hurt economically disadvantaged adolescents more acutely as mid-day meals went missing, along with weekly iron and folic acid supplementation and, in the case of girls, the distribution of sanitary napkins. Escalating economic pressures on the poorest households threaten to increase the incidence of underage girls being married off and dropping out of schooling.

Population Foundation commissioned two studies to assess the impact of Covid-19 on adolescents. Its findings revealed that access to reproductive healthcare services suffered a blow. Young people expressed the need for mental healthcare services, and those who have used these services, have found them to be positively influential. There was an increase in their workload of domestic chores. An increase in domestic violence and conflict was reported by one-fourth of the respondents. Some young respondents spoke about economic anxieties during the lockdown.

Over 50 per cent of Indians are under 25 years of age, making us a young nation. By 2024, around 127 million adolescents will turn 18 and be ready to contribute to nation building as consumers, workers, voters, leaders and in many other roles. This is the best time to push for greater investments for the adolescent population and their health.

This should mean increased public spending towards universal access to quality health, nutrition and education, among other things. Investing in strengthening mechanisms for improving access to these services for adolescents will have a huge impact on the savings and capital formation which will translate to higher economic growth.

Our government is cognisant of the need to ensure that our young are healthy, educated and well-nourished. We look to the upcoming Union Budget as a source of hope for increased allocations for young people’s health and development.

Poonam Muttreja

 

(Views are personal)

(The writer is Executive Director, Population Foundation of India)

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Published on January 24, 2021
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