A report by the World Health Organisation, Global Accelerated Action For The Health Of Adolescents has shown that 3,000 adolescents die every day.
This means that a total of 1.2 million deaths every year are among 10–19-year-olds. What is more appalling is that the deaths are from largely preventable causes, according to the report.
Road traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections, and suicide are the biggest causes of death it identifies among adolescents with over two-thirds of them occurring in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and South-East Asia.
Lack of knowledge on the existence of critical prevention and care services or its non-existence in most areas leaves a number suffering from mental health disorders, substance use, or poor nutrition.
WHO through the report suggests that these deaths can be prevented with good health services, education and social support for adolescents.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, the Assistant Director-General for WHO says for a long time these vulnerable lot who make a larger proportion of the global population are ignored by governments in their health plants.
Dr Bustereo says there is a great need to invest in the health of younger generations as they stand as the next productive segment of the society.
"Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults who thrive and contribute positively to their communities, but it will also result in healthier future generations, yielding enormous returns," said Dr Bustereo.
Data in the report reveal stark differences in causes of death when separating the adolescent group by age (younger adolescents aged 10–14 years and older ones aged 15–19 years) and by sex.
The report also includes the range of interventions – from seat-belt laws to comprehensive sexuality education – that countries can take to improve their health and well-being and dramatically cut unnecessary deaths.
In 2015, road injuries were the leading cause of adolescent death among 10–19-year-olds, resulting in approximately 115 000 adolescent deaths. Older adolescent boys aged 15–19 years experienced the greatest burden.
Most young people killed in road crashes are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
In low- and middle-income countries in Africa, communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and diarrhoeal diseases are bigger causes of death among adolescents than road injuries.
Lower respiratory infections and pregnancy complications take toll on girls' health. The indoor pollution from cooking using dirty fuels leads to such infections as pneumonia that has been found to be a killer of younger adolescent girls aged 10–14 years.
In senior female adolescents (15–19-year-old girls), pregnancy complications, such as haemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour, and complications from unsafe abortions, are the top cause of deaths.
Dr Anthony Costello, the Director, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, at the WHO says that to improve adolescent health, it has to start with changing how health systems serve them for the better.
"Parents, families, and communities are extremely important, as they have the greatest potential to positively influence adolescent behaviour and health," he said.