African governments and their development partners should invest in new home-grown initiatives to reduce high death rates among the continent's youth from preventable causes, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report released in Nairobi on Tuesday
The report titled 'Global accelerated action for the health of adolescents: Guidance to support country implementation' said that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 45% of an estimated 1,2 million adolescent deaths that occur every year across the globe.
Senior WHO officials said a high number of adolescent deaths is a wake-up call for national governments, industry and multilateral lenders to increase investments in youth centred preventive and curative health services.
"Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades. Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults but will also result in healthier future generations and yield enormous returns," said WHO assistant director general Flavia Bustreo.
The African continent is shouldering the heaviest burden of adolescent deaths linked to preventable causes like indoor pollution, road accidents, HIV-AIDS and diarrhoea.
According to a 2014 WHO report, high death rates among Africa's adolescents due to communicable and lifestyle diseases have eroded gains made in maternal and infant health.
The report decried negligible policy and funding interventions to promote adolescents' physical and mental health in the world's second largest continent.
Director of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health at WHO, Dr Anthony Costello said improving the health of Africa's youth will have positive socio-economic outcomes, hence the need to involve everyone to achieve that objective.
"Improving the way health systems serve adolescents is just one part of improving their health. Parents, families and communities are extremely important as they have the greatest potential to positively influence adolescent behaviour and health," Costello said.