WHO Calls for Action to Prevent Youth Violence

By Tharanga YakupitiyageUNITED NATIONS, Oct 29 2015 (IPS)Approximately 200,000 youth are murdered every year, making homicide the fourth leading cause of death among young people around the world, according to a new study by the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO). The report, Preventing Youth Violence: An Overview of the Evidence released on Oct. 27, illustrates the magnitude and consequences of youth violence globally.Youth violence takes many forms including bullying, physical assault, sexual violence, and homicide.The report revealed that youth homicides constitute 43 percent of the total number of homicides around the world. Of youth killed between the ages of 10 to 29, 83 percent are male. The majority of perpetrators are also male. The majority of youth homicides occur in low and middle-income countries.Estimated youth homicide rates in some countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa are 100 or more times higher than rates in Western Europe and Western Pacific, which have the lowest youth homicide rates.However, not all violence leads to death. For every young person killed by violence, millions more are admitted to hospitals for serious injuries. For instance, in just one month in Brazil, there were almost 5000 cases of violence-related injury, more than half of whom were people between the ages of 10 to 29.Such violence leads to life-long consequences including physical disability and mental health problems. One study revealed that students who experience bullying and violence in school are 30 to 50 percent more likely to suffer depression later.Youth violence has also caused wider societal consequences, the report noted, including low educational performance, burdened health systems, future income and economic losses, as well as social costs associated to increased fear and reduced social cohesion.In the US, medical costs and lost earnings associated with youth violence amount to 20 billion dollars per year.The report highlights several risk factors that strongly contribute to youth violence including prior involvement in crime, lack of social ties, drug consumption, poverty, parent-child relations, child maltreatment, and low academic achievement.As a result of the numerous potential causes, WHO assessed 21 strategies and policies to prevent youth violence.“One of the greatest obstacles to effectively preventing youth violence has been the lack of information on what works,” the report stated.Among the most promising strategies include parenting and early childhood development programs; bullying prevention programs; community- and problem-oriented policing policies; gun control legislation and; urban upgrading policies.In Spain, a bullying prevention programme– training both staff and students– found a reduction in bullying victimization from 25 percent to 15 percent.Fica Vivo program, a community-oriented policing programme in Brazil, provided financial and social assistance to young people in order to reduce dependence on criminal groups. The programme also connected police officers with community members to develop in-depth knowledge of the area and build relations. This led to a 69 percent reduction in homicide rates in the first six months.In Medellín, Colombia, authorities upgraded low-income neighborhoods’ infrastructure and built a public transport system connecting isolated low-income communities to the city’s urban center. This led to a 66 percent decline in homicide rates.Though many of the programmes were associated to public health, the report urged a multisectoral approach to youth violence.“Health is just one of several sectors whose contributions are essential if youth violence prevention success is to be achieved and sustained,” Director of the Department for Management of Non-Communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence, and Injury Prevention Etienne Krug said.However, WHO noted that a majority of the evidence comes from high-income countries, making it difficult to apply in low-income countries. Nevertheless, the organisation highlighted the need for a coordinated, systematic, and long-term approach to preventing youth violence.Resolution 67.15, adopted by 184 member States at the 67th World Health Assembly in May 2014, includes commitments to prevent violence against children. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain more broad commitments to reduce all forms of violence and related deaths.(End)