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Youths in jeopardy in Middle East, North Africa

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A decade since Arab Spring protests rocked the Middle East and North Africa, many of its youth are in need and at risk, says the UN children’s agency’s regional director.

“After 2011, the lives and futures of children and young people have been put in jeopardy,” Ted Chaiban told the AFP news agency in an interview in the Jordanian capital Amman.

“This is a combined result of conflict and the fall of oil prices, which has narrowed opportunities for children and young people in the region.”

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The Middle East and North Africa region counts 124 million people aged 10-24 – just over a quarter of the whole population.

Chaiban said there were 38 million children and adolescents requiring assistance in the Mena region—“the highest number of children in need in the world”.

The region accounts for half of Unicef’s worldwide humanitarian response appeals – “a significant increase since 2011” due to the political and economic developments, he said.

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The region is also home to the world’s worst youth unemployment rates—25 percent in the Middle East, and 29 percent in North Africa— according to Chaiban.

The jobless rates are higher for young females: 41 percent in the Middle East and 39 percent in North Africa.

The World Bank says the region will need to create 300 million new jobs by 2050, according to current demographic trends.

Countries “will need to begin creating 800,000 jobs per month—starting right now—just to keep pace with new workers entering the market”, a World Bank official said in January.

From war-ravaged Libya to Syria and Yemen, the region has also been the scene of violence affecting thousands of young lives.—Al Jazeera

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