Our program officer SRHR and gender equality –Winnie Apio was honored to be a part of an international symposium on ‘advancing multi-sectoral programming for adolescent health and well-being in sub-Saharan Africa’; held in Dakar, Senegal, on 7th May 2019. The symposium was an interactive and impactful meeting that brought together representatives from various international organizations working in adolescent health and wellbeing.

This gathering initiated dialogue between UNICEF and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) staff to advance the learning-to-action agenda for adolescent health and well-being; showcased UNICEF multispectral programs, and discuss BMGF-supported programs, aimed at improving adolescent health and well-being outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa; examined how UNICEF and BMGF-supported countries are developing, implementing, and monitoring multisectoral programs for adolescent health and well-being and it helped identify critical knowledge gaps and regional opportunities for strengthening multisectoral responses to adolescent health and well-being.

During the meeting, Ms. Apio was part of two panels that emphasized the need for youth engagement in designing and implementation of programs targeting adolescent health and well being. Topical issues during the meeting included; different pertinent issues to adolescent health including teenage pregnancy, child marriage, drugs, and alcohol abuse, mental health problems like suicide and depression, education, comprehensive sexuality education and so much more.

Various issues regarding adolescent health and well-being were raised, they included but not limited to; the need to ensure that adolescents living in fragile settings and those who belong to minority groups are also considered when designing programs for adolescent health and well being. Due to the fact they have unique and most often forgotten needs, they are often left out in the wholesome planning.

Also, stakeholders’ need to continue to uplift the value of education in preventing adolescent health issues like teenage pregnancies or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. As studies continue to show, girls and boys who stay in school have greater chances of protecting themselves from issues like early marriage, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and so much more. The need to teat young people as experts because they are the best sources of information on what programs would work best for them right from the planning process.

Overall, a multi-sectoral approach towards adolescent health is important because the problems faced by adolescents are complex and do not have simple solutions.