The health, economic and social effects of COVID-19 in Africa and around the world have been unprecedented. In this series, young Africans both on the continent and in the diaspora share their views on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How are young people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Young people across Kenya have lost their livelihoods at unprecedented rates. Since the start of partial-lock-down measures in Kenya, young people have reported a rapid reduction in their income, exacerbated by sharp hikes in the cost of essentials like food and transport. Over the last four weeks, we at Shujaaz Inc have seen young people across our network sink deeper into chronic poverty; with hunger now appearing widespread.
Young Kenyans face widespread barriers to adopting recommended public health behaviours. This is because they rely on travelling around their neighbourhoods to earn income and, as local market stalls have shut down, to travel to buy food. Likewise, the cost of masks, clean water and soap are simply inaccessible to many young people.
What role can young people play in prevention, response, and transformation in combating COVID-19 in Africa?
3 in 5 Kenyans are under the age of 25. Right now, under 25-year-olds represent more than 60% of the total population. If young people are at the centre of our response to this crisis, they’ll help to rebuild stronger communities.
Young people should take the lead in ensuring that those in their communities are well informed on the necessary health behaviours needed to combat COVID-19. With the rise in misinformation, young people can ensure that those around them are informed and taking the necessary measures.
Young Africans can also begin providing solutions to their communities such as by developing low cost sanitisers, hand washing soap and sewing masks.
How can we strengthen innovative communication tools between institutions and the local community both online and offline to help tackle COVID-19?
It is imperative for governments and relevant organisations to develop and implement responses and approaches that speak to the reality of young Africans, especially those in peri urban and rural areas who are often marginalised and forgotten.
Any innovative communication must have youth at the centre, speaking to their everyday lives. There should also be feedback mechanisms where young people’s views and opinions inform strategies and responses.
Mobilising young people to participate in communication campaigns and approaches provides a sense of ownership which would lead to long term transformation.
What lessons and best practice can African countries learn from each other and Ebola response to help slow the spread of COVID-19?
- Clear, swift and relatable communication will reduce confusion and inform citizens of the roles they can all play in combatting the spread of COVID-19.
- Governments should seek to put tough restrictions on movement in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- There should be economic and social cushions to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are protected, supported and provided with alternatives that will minimise their exposure to COVID-19.
- The enhancement of essential services such as sexual and reproductive health services in order to ensure that women and girls are protected during the pandemic.