Malaria Thoughts on International Youth Day

Youth, those 15-24 years old, are usually thought to be generally healthy and often do not occupy the minds of health planners. It is the pre-school age child who dies from infectious diseases and the older adult who succumbs to non-communicable afflictions. Actually as an e-mail today from USAID points out …

Approximately 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. The impact of pregnancy on adolescent girls can be devastating: girls who become pregnant face a higher risk of maternal mortality, often drop out of school, and are sometimes forced into early marriage. In 2009, nearly 2.5 million boys and girls under the age of 15 were living with HIV, and 370,000 were born HIV-positive. For many, HIV has become a chronic disease that requires lifelong treatment, care, and support.

Pregnant teens living in malaria endemic areas are usually at high risk because it is the first and second pregnancies especially that are more prone to the disease and the anemia, miscarriage, still birth and possible death that comes in its wake. For example, researchers in Western Region, Ghana recently found that …

… adolescent pregnant girls were more likely to have malaria and anaemia compared to their adult pregnant counterpart. Results from this study shows that proactive adolescent friendly policies and control programmes for malaria and anaemia are needed in this region in order to protect this vulnerable group of pregnant women.

dscn2401sm.jpgOf course, youth are not only victims of malaria, but agents for change. A youth group in Uganda has launched the  Make Malaria History Campaign (MHC) and plans to distribute over 100,000 treated mosquito nets. Youth often organize community drama to highlight health issues as seen in the photo from Bauchi State, Nigeria.

Elimination of malaria means protecting all segments of the population in the spirit of universal coverage. Youth are not an exception.

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