In a shocking revelation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled that a staggering 1.5 million adolescents and youths met untimely deaths in 2021 due to preventable causes, equating to an average of 4,500 lives lost daily.
These tragic losses are primarily attributed to road traffic accidents and interpersonal violence, with an emerging concern surrounding mental health disorders among this age group.
Dr. Anshu Banerjee, a director in the Department of Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO, made this grim announcement during the Global Forum for Adolescents, the world’s largest online meeting of adolescents and young people, held in Abuja.
The event, which took place on October 11 and 12, 2023, witnessed governments and stakeholders making fresh commitments in response to this crisis.
Banerjee’s warning was stern: without concerted efforts to reverse this trend, the mortality rate of young people is set to rise.
He emphasized, “More than 1.5 million adolescents and youths lost their lives in 2021, an average of 4,500 deaths per day due to preventable causes. Leading factors include road accidents, interpersonal violence, and an escalating concern for mental health disorders.”
The predicaments facing young people extend beyond the loss of life. Access to sexual health and family planning services is a challenge, heightening the risk of unplanned pregnancies.
Substance use, child marriage, nutritional imbalances (both under and overnutrition), and injuries constitute additional major concerns.
The “Agenda for Action for Adolescents” addresses these urgent issues, advocating for seven critical areas, including expanded and improved education and skills training, enhanced adolescent-friendly healthcare services, greater support for mental well-being, and intensified efforts to combat stigma and discrimination, coupled with comprehensive sexuality education.
The Global Forum, hosted by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), was a platform to spotlight the needs and priorities of adolescents and young people worldwide.
The event, titled “Agenda for Action for Adolescents,” was built upon the voices and opinions of 1.2 million young people aged 16 to 24, hailing from over 80 countries, participating through the “What Young People Want” initiative, the world’s most extensive survey of young individuals.
Sahil Tandon, representing the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and co-leading the drafting team for the Agenda for Action for Adolescents, emphasized that adolescents and young people face specific health and well-being challenges that are often overlooked in policy and investment.
He pointed out the stark reality that, between 2003 and 2015, less than 1.6 percent of development assistance for health was allocated to adolescent health, despite the existence of 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide.
The Agenda for Action aims to focus attention where it is most urgently needed and align all partners in addressing the pressing concerns of this critical demographic.
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