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Young people more optimistic about the world than older generations – Unicef | Global development

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Young people are often seen as having a bleak worldview, plugged uncritically into social media and anxious about the climate crisis, among other pressing issues.

But a global study commissioned by the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, appears to turn that received wisdom on its head. It paints a picture of children believing that the world is improving with each generation, even while they report anxiety and impatience for change on global heating.

The landmark intergenerational study, conducted for Unicef by Gallup for World Children’s Day, surveyed two age groups in 21 countries – aged 15-24 and 40-plus – sampled from different socioeconomic groups, to compare attitudes.

The results suggest the younger generation are more positive and globally minded than their elders, sceptical of what they read on social media (only 17% of young people said they trusted social media platforms “a lot” for information) and more invested in science and the possibility of global cooperation and international institutions.

The young people surveyed were also more likely to believe childhood had improved, voting healthcare, education and physical safety as being better for them than it had been for their parents’ generation.

Young Ugandans march in Wakiso as part of a climate protest in 2019
Young Ugandans march through Wakiso in a climate protest. The survey found young people to be more globally minded and optimistic than their elders. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty

“Born into a more digital, interconnected and diverse reality, young people see a world that is largely a better place for children than the one their parents grew up in – a safer and more abundant world that offers children better education, opportunities and hope for the future,” the report concludes.

“At the same time, young people are not complacent. They report greater struggles with mental health conditions. Amid a sea of mis- and disinformation, they report low levels of trust in the information sources they use most.”

Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said: “There is no shortage of reasons for pessimism in the world today: climate change, the pandemic, poverty and inequality, rising distrust and growing nationalism. But here is a reason for optimism: children and young people refuse to see the world through the bleak lens of adults.”

Compared with older generations, she said: “The world’s young people remain hopeful, much more globally minded, and determined to make the world a better place. Today’s young people have concerns for the future but see themselves as part of the solution.”

Overall, the data suggests young people are products of globalisation – 39% identified most with being part of the world, rather than their own nation or region, compared with 22% of the 40-plus group. With each additional year of age, people were on average about 1% less likely to identify as a global citizen.

The survey – conducted during the pandemic – also found young people were generally more trusting of national governments, scientists and international news media as sources of accurate information. Yet they were aware of the problems the world faced:

  • The majority of young people saw serious risks for children online, such as seeing violent or sexually explicit content (78%) or being bullied (79%).

  • While 64% of those in low- and middle-income countries believed children would be better off economically than their parents, young people in high-income countries had little faith in economic progress. There, fewer than a third of young respondents believed children today would grow up to be better off economically than their parents.

  • More than a third of young people reported often feeling nervous or anxious, and nearly one in five said they often felt depressed or had little interest in doing things.

  • On average, 59% of young people said children today faced more pressure to succeed than their parents did.

Joe Daly, senior partner at Gallup, said: “We cannot know what is on the minds of young people if we do not ask them. Unicef’s survey reinforces the importance of hearing from the next generation and understanding their perspectives.”

The survey found some areas of multi-generational alignment – notably around climate, the importance of education, global collaboration and children’s agency. By contrast, optimism, global mindedness and recognition of historical progress reflected some of the deepest divides.

Fore said: “While this research paints a nuanced view of the generational divide, a clear picture emerges: children and young people embody the spirit of the 21st century far more readily than their parents.”

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Protests flare across Poland after death of young mother denied an abortion | Abortion

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Protests are under way across Poland after the death of a 37-year-old woman this week who was refused an abortion, a year since the country introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

On the streets of Warsaw on Tuesday night, protesters laid wreaths and lanterns in memory of Agnieszka T, who died earlier that day. She was pregnant with twins when one of the foetus’ heartbeat stopped and doctors refused to carry out an abortion. In a statement, her family accused the government of having “blood on its hands”. Further protests are planned in Częstochowa, the city in southern Poland where the mother-of-three was from.

“We continue to protest so that no one else will die,” Marta Lempart, organiser of the protests, told Polish media. “The Polish abortion ban kills. Another person has died because the necessary medical procedure was not carried out on time.” All-Poland Women’s Strike has called on people across the country to picket the offices of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and organise road blockades in the coming days.

Agnieszka was first admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa with abdominal pain on 21 December. She is said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she arrived and was in “a good physical and mental shape”, according to her family, who said her condition then deteriorated.

On 21 December the heartbeat of one of the twins stopped and, according to Agnieszka’s family, the doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation. They waited several days until the second foetus also died. A further two days passed before the pregnancy was terminated on 31 December, according to the family.

A priest was then summoned by hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, the family said.

The family say that the doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy earlier, citing Poland’s abortion legislation. “Her husband begged the doctors to save his wife, even at the cost of the pregnancy,” Agnieszka’s twin sister, Wioletta Paciepnik, said on Tuesday.

After the termination, Agnieszka was moved from the gynaecological ward and her health continued to deteriorate. Her family suspect that she died of sepsis but the cause of death was not identified in a statement released by the hospital.

Shortly after her death, a statement by her family accusing the hospital of neglect was published on Facebook, alongside a distressing video of Agnieszka’s last days.

Agnieszka’s death marks the first anniversary of the 2021 ruling that declared abortion due to foetal abnormalities illegal. Abortion can now only be carried out in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life and health are in danger.

Her death comes after that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was refused an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found that “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined. Soon after, an anonymous man from Świdnica in south-west Poland came forward to share that his wife, Ania, died in similar circumstances in June last year.

While “selective abortion” is possible in the case of a twin pregnancy, it is unclear whether aborting an unviable foetus to save its healthy twin is permitted by the new abortion legislation. The Polish court has not referenced the questions raised by this situation, presented by opposition senators last year, in the new legislation.

“We want to honour the memory of my beloved sister and save other women in Poland from a similar fate,” Paciepnik said in a video appeal. The case is now being investigated by the regional prosecutors in Katowice, who also investigated the case of Izabela.

The family are represented by Kamila Ferenc, from the Federation for Women and Family Planning, who confirmed that an autopsy of Agnieszka’s body has been ordered by the court.

According to a statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. The hospital did not respond to the Guardian for a request for comment.

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Italy welcoming back EU tourists from February

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Italy will remove all Covid-linked restrictions on international visitors from the EU from 1 February, except the requirement to carry a “Green Pass” – a certificate of vaccination, negative test result, or immunity through having had the virus. Roberto Speranza, the health minister, also gave Italians the go-ahead to travel once again to Cuba, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand (the island of Phuket), Oman, and French Polynesia, Reuters reports.

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Polish state has ‘blood on its hands’ after death of woman refused an abortion | Abortion

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The family of a Polish woman who died on Tuesday after doctors refused to perform an abortion when the foetus’s heart stopped beating have accused the government of having “blood on their hands”.

The woman, identified only as Agnieszka T, was said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she was admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa on 21 December. Her death comes a year after Poland introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

According to a statement released by relatives, the 37-year-old was experiencing pain when she arrived at the hospital but was “fully conscious and in good physical shape”.

The first foetus died in the womb on 23 December, but doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation, and Agnieszka’s family claim “her state quickly deteriorated”. The hospital waited until the heartbeat of the second twin also stopped a week later, and then waited a further two days before terminating the pregnancy on 31 December.

Agnieszka died on 25 January after weeks of deteriorating health. Her family suspect that she died as a result of septic shock, but the hospital did not identify the cause of her death in statement issued on Wednesday.

“This is proof of the fact that the current government has blood on their hands,” the woman’s family said in a statement on Facebook. The family also uploaded distressing footage of Agnieszka in poor health shortly before she died.

After the termination of the pregnancy a priest was summoned by the hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, Agnieszka’s family said.

Her death follows that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was denied an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined.

Agnieszka’s family claim that contact with the hospital was very poor and that the hospital refused to share the results of Agnieszka’s medical tests citing confidentiality guidelines. They say the doctors “insinuated” that Agnieszka’s rapidly deteriorating state could be caused by BSE, commonly known as “mad cow disease”, or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) and suggested she ate raw meat. The hospital did not reference this claim in their statement.

According to the statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. It is not clear whether an autopsy has been ordered.

Agnieszka is survived by her husband and three children.

The Guardian has contacted the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital for comment.

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