The world now has the largest group of adolescents ever in the history of humanity, but increasingly, those aged 10 to 24 in low-income counties receive only a fraction of the development funds they need.
Specific programs are needed to address the unique social and health problems experienced by young people and their families in developing or disaster-affected countries, according to a new document published by Harvard University and the Melbourne Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI). ) Saturday.
The research found that adolescent health is "undervalued and insufficiently invested" and only gets 1.6 percent of foreign aid.
This is despite the fact that young people constitute almost 30 percent of the population in these countries.
The lead author, Professor George Patton, told SBS News that lack of investment in teenagers is a missed opportunity.
"If you invest in teenagers, you also receive a triple dividend," he said.
"You achieve better growth during the teenage years, a healthier trajectory throughout life and, because this is the next generation of parents, you achieve the healthiest start of life for the next generation."
More than 70% of the aid dedicated to young people finances sexual and reproductive health and the prevention of HIV / AIDS.
But while Professor Patton agrees that these are important causes, he said that young people have a number of unique health problems that are ignored.
"We need to invest in things like nutrition, which is so important for healthy growth during these years," he said.
"We need to invest in mental health, we spend almost nothing on mental health today, these are really good investments we should make, and we're not doing."
As in Australia, injuries caused by traffic accidents in developing countries are one of the leading causes of death in developing countries, which according to Professor Patton are "cheap to invest", with a high success rate .
With more than 13 years of experience, his research found that while countries like Australia should spend $ 9 per adolescent, per year in low-income countries, they spend only 40 cents.
Australia's foreign aid budget was cut
While the Australian government spent just over $ 4 billion in foreign aid in the last fiscal year, industry advocates believe that this is simply not enough.
Australia's aid budget has been drastically reduced in the last five years. According to The Lowy Institute, the cuts have left Australia at an all-time low when it comes to the generosity of aid.
Plan International, an aid organization involved in advancing the rights of children and the equality of girls, is one of the many charities of adolescents that demand that the government do more.
"These cuts to aid have really hurt the poorest people in the world, with children especially suffering," Hayley Cull, director of promotion and commitment, told SBS News.
She said that investing in adolescents, particularly young women, is of vital importance for the future development of many of these nations.
"There are almost five hundred thousand teenage girls in the developing world, and they face all sorts of problems, the odds are really against them," said Ms. Cull.
He said that if young women could participate in the economy at a level comparable to that of men, world GDP would grow by 26 percent, or close to $ 400 billion, by 2025.
The & # 39; government support & # 39; it is an imperative for success
But making adolescent health a priority in an already stretched budget is a difficult task, according to the director of the Center for Development Policy at the National University of Australia, Professor Stephen Howes.
He told SBS News that "there is not much appetite for a larger aid budget." It's going to take a long time, and certainly more than one report to change that. "
Professor Howes said that spending money on teen health programs is just one of hundreds of important areas with insufficient funds in developing countries.
"The challenge for any aid program is that there are so many good causes in which you could spend your money," he said.
"Of course adolescent health is a good cause, but so are palliative care, which does not receive money at all, and if you try to do everything, you end up with a fragmented program and end up without achieving anything."
He said that working with local governments is absolutely essential to achieve good results in any area of foreign aid.
"Decades of experience in aid have shown that if donors do it alone, without government support, then the results are usually not sustainable."