Thursday February 21, 2019

World Health Organization (WHO) says Time to Stop Deaths of Young Children through Immunization and Programs

Dr. Anthony Costello, director of WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health told VOA, "We’re finding 1.2 million (adolescents) die each year. That’s 3,000 deaths a day. That’s 10 jumbo jets."

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FILE - Ana Garcia, center, fills out a form for her 13-year-old son, Jose Hernandez, before getting a Tdap shot outside Tustin High School in Tustin, Calif. Source-VOA

Washington, May 20, 2017: The World Health Organization has delivered dramatic news about the causes of death for young people the world over. Governments and health agencies have made great strides in reducing deaths of young children through immunization and programs that address maternal and infant care. But adolescents have somehow fallen through the cracks.

Dr. Anthony Costello, director of WHO’s Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health told VOA, “We’re finding 1.2 million (adolescents) die each year. That’s 3,000 deaths a day. That’s 10 jumbo jets.” What’s more, Costello says these deaths are largely preventable.

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The study shows traffic injuries are the top cause of death among adolescents, those between 10 and 19. In most cases, the adolescent is struck by a car while walking or riding a bicycle.

Other leading causes of death include lower respiratory infections and suicide, the report found. The causes differ by gender, age and region. Boys between 15 and 19 years old are more likely to die from traffic injuries than girls or than younger boys. In sub-Saharan Africa, children are more likely to contract HIV.

Girls between 10 and 14 are at risk for getting respiratory infections from indoor air pollution and from breathing in fumes from cooking fuels. Older girls, between 15 and 19, had a greater risk of death from pregnancy complications, childbirth or unsafe abortions. Teenage girls generally have small pelvises which lead to difficult labor.

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Costello said pregnant adolescent girls are also “more likely to get high blood pressure; they may be more vulnerable to bleeding, they may be more anemic. They may be in situations more vulnerable to malaria, to HIV.”

The point of the study that was conducted by the WHO and partners at other U.N. agencies and the World Bank.

Head of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization(WHO) Dr Anthony Costello attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 2, 2016.

Head of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization(WHO) Dr Anthony Costello attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 2, 2016.

Looking forward

While the study focuses on the causes of death, Costello said the point was to help develop a framework and a plan to improve the health of adolescents. If adolescents had access to good health services, education and social support, fewer young people would die. In the case of traffic related deaths, he said better traffic laws, speed limits, the use of seatbelts could save lives in countries that don’t have strict driving safety laws. Costello pointed out that “In India, for example, there are 90,000 deaths on the road each year; many of those are adolescents and children.”

Dr. Flavia Bustreo, the assistant director-general at WHO, said, “Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades.” The report proposes changing these plans and trying to help adolescents develop healthy lifestyle habits.

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Costello said, “The roots of diabetes, of heart attacks, of strokes, of lung cancer, the root of that lies in the adolescent years, how the adolescents approach nutrition, and diet and exercise, whether they start to smoke or not, or abuse other substances.

Concept shift

Costello said countries need to create more adolescent friendly cities so adolescents have places to play, gather together safely and avoid gang violence.

“Governments have got to invest in young people,” Costello said, because “they’re the future. We mustn’t be afraid to involve children in designing their own environments, in coming up with creative ideas, in working with peer groups, and investing in things that will give them an exciting life without exposing them to long term risks that could be avoidable.”

A study published in The Lancet in April shows that improving the physical, mental and sexual health of adolescents could result in significant economic returns. The study contends that an investment of about $4.60 per person per year would yield more than 10 times as much in benefits to society. This study was conducted by researchers from Victoria University and the University of Melbourne along with the United Nations Populations Fund.

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Next Story

WHO Makes Progress In Controlling Ebola In Congo

In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated.

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Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders)-supported Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus.

Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation and contact tracing.

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Medical staff are sterilized before entering the isolation unit at a hospital in Bundibugyo, western Uganda, on Aug. 17, 2018, where there is one suspected case of Ebola. VOA

She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts.

“I feel optimistic,” Moeti said. “I am very clear that we need to continue this work. We need to make sure that in the places where we have made progress, we build on this progress and we do not go back. And, we are being very, very conscious of the fact that we need to invest to improve the preparedness both in the DRC areas that are highest at risk and, most importantly, in the surrounding countries that are at risk.”

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Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 20, 2018. VOA

The risk of the virus spreading to countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is very high because of the heavy cross-border traffic among the countries, Moeti said. However, she added, surveillance and preparedness activities have been enhanced on both sides of the border.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

She says there is extensive monitoring at border crossings and improvements have been made in screening people for the virus. In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated. Moeti said a similar vaccination campaign began two days ago in South Sudan. (VOA)