By Nazli Yuzbasioglu
GENEVA (AA) – A senior official with the United Nations Population Fund has praised Turkey’s humanitarian efforts, saying the country has been "a model of hospitality".
"Turkey has been an example in terms of hosting refugee populations. Over 3 million people are still living in Turkey as refugees. And I think really from that perspective, Turkey has been a model of hospitality and providing services to a population who was really in need," Alanna Armitage, fund's regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
Stressing that there has been "great progress" in some areas related to population and development across UN Economic Commission for Europe region, Armitage said: "I think we have to be happy about some of the really good things that have happened in the region in the last five years, particularly around the reduction of maternal mortality. And Turkey has been a country that has also done exceptionally well in that area."
She said population dynamics, sexual and reproductive health across the life course, and inequalities were the main issues that were highlighted during the UNECE and UNFPA’s "Regional Conference on Enabling Choices: Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development" held on Oct 1-2 in Geneva.
Armitage noted that UNECE region is experiencing "a phenomenon, which is unique and is not seen so much in the other regions, that is a very low fertility rate, aging populations, a lot of migration."
She called on region’s countries to tackle the issue "through the investment in human capital", "investment in young people through investment in gender equality".
Asserting that data shows gender equality leading to healthier economies, she said: "It leads to healthier families, it can actually lead to bigger families."
"Because when women can choose to both be mothers, but also work outside the home when they have the types of policies in place to allow them to make those choices, they tend to make choices in the interest of both themselves and the family," she added.
Recalling that "contraceptive prevalence rates have not improved" in the past five years, Armitage said: "In fact, in some countries, we're seeing even less investment in family planning, contraception. This is quite surprising for the UNECE region, a region that should be further ahead than many others given the levels of the economies."
On migration issue, Armitage said that certain countries in the region are facing "out-migration of young people".
"That's difficult and very challenging for the economies of these countries. Especially in Eastern Europe, we are seeing a lot of out-migration of young people… On the other hand, of course, we do also agree that they should be mobile so it's a complex issue.
"Turkey has been an example in terms of hosting refugee populations. Over 3 million people are still living in Turkey as refugees. And I think really from that perspective, Turkey has been a model of hospitality and providing services to a population who was really in need.”
*Merve Aydogan from Ankara contributed to this story.