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Director, Sub-regional Office in the Caribbean, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Geeta Sethi, said that universal access to reproductive health must be a priority investment for all governments in the region.

“People are the most important resource of a country and given the Caribbean’s large youth population, half of which is below 25 years old, special emphasis must be placed on meaningful investment in young people’s education, health, and in equipping them to make responsible choices,” she stated.

Miss Sethi was speaking on Wednesday (July 11) at the World Population Day 2012 Symposium held at the Emancipation Park in New Kingston, under the theme: ‘Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health – it’s your right – claim it with responsibility’.

She noted that access to family planning information and services must be seen as a basic human right, especially for the adolescent and youth populations, and they must also “have the space and knowhow to exercise that right, free of stigma, shame and violence."

The UNFPA Director said reproductive health must not only be seen as a private, personal issue, but must also be regarded as an integral part of a country’s plan for sustainable development.

Miss Sethi noted that open dialogue about sex and sexuality, as well as reproductive health must be seen as a priority and we “must banish the notion that talking to young people about sex and sexuality encourages them to be sexually active."

She stated that research around the globe has shown that educating young people about reproductive health results in a delay in the age that they first have sexual intercourse as well as a reduction in the number of partners.

She gave the UNFPA’s commitment to working with all partners to advance universal access to reproductive health. This, she said, is key to reducing poverty, social and economic inequality, improving the well-being of people, as well as safeguarding the health and rights of women, men and young people.

The symposium was organised by the UNFPA in collaboration with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). Discussions focused on three main topics: history and development of reproductive health services in Jamaica; the legal/policy environment and adolescent sexual and reproductive health services; and adolescent sex, sexuality and reproductive health.

There were also presentations from Acting Director, Social Policy, Planning and Research Division, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Easton Williams and Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis Fuller. 

Celebration of World Population Day began in 1987 when the world’s population reached the five billion mark. The global population grew to six billion in 1999 and then to seven billion in 2011. It is estimated that the global population will reach nine billion in 2050. It is further expected that the growth of the global population will gradually slow down and even decline within the next 200 years.