Youth vital in the fight against pandemic


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc, experts are predicting that Africa could be hardest hit. FILE PHOTO | NMG

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc, experts are predicting that Africa could be hardest hit.

African youth have continued to make efforts to provide solutions to help reduce the spread of the disease and address its socio-economic impact.

It is encouraging to see young people across the continent leading the way in the fight against coronavirus, and stepping up to help their communities. They know the future depends on their actions.

Indeed, the youth represent energy, creativity and innovation and should be beacons of hope that can support the community at all times especially in times of such crisis.

Young people are reclaiming power in the face of the pandemic and the powerlessness it makes us all feel. Youth-led civil society and movements are acting on an unprecedented scale. Youth are mobilising communities to protect themselves, and supporting governments and health workers through collective action.

Through individual acts and collective action, young people reclaimed power over this pandemic and have taken the fight to it.

Isaac 'Kaka' Muasa of Mathare Environmental One Stop in Kenya has teamed up with the UN-Habitat, the Norwegian Embassy and the Canadian High Commission to support residents of Mathare slums to stop spread of coronavirus in the poor neighbourhood.

The group has begun a hand-washing programme meant to protect Mathare residents from Covid19 virus. Children and young people make up the majority of the people who are washing hands.

What would be the situation when Covd-19 strikes in the urban slums of Nairobi or other low-income areas? This is scary to even imagine. That is why Emmy Kemper is leading Miss Koch Kenya and young people in her neighbourhood to support the most vulnerable in the sprawling slums of Korogocho.

They have supported hundreds of families whose livelihoods have been disrupted.

In Cameroon, Achalake Christian, the co-ordinator of Local Youth Corner has launched the operation one person, one sanitizer to prevent the spread of coronavirus especially among the poor. He’s working with young people to produce and distribute for free homemade hand sanitizers using World Health Organisation standards. He has teamed up with people of goodwill, the coalition of youth civil society organisations, medical doctors, pharmacists and laboratory scientist. Sibongumusa Zuma is causing waves with his humanitarian action in South Africa.

Across the country street hawkers have been prohibited from trading during the national lockdown. It is hard for everyone but for the street vendors it’s harder. He has organised young people to donate groceries to street hawkers.

Zuma says that as young people they cannot sit down and fold their arms knowing very well that there were people who make a living by selling food on the street who are now closing their businesses due to the lockdown.

In Botswana, Pretty Thogo is co-ordinating a platform that brings the World Bank Africa Youth Transforming Africa initiative (YTA) and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) and are organising regular roundtables on development topics to allow dialogue among Africa’s youth, and prepare some youth-grown solutions to influence policymaking in Africa.

During its first online roundtable this month, the initiative featured medical and communications experts, and helped young Africans to learn more about Covid-19 and how to identify trusted sources of information.

Similarly, Youth Voices Rwanda is hosting twitter and Facebook live discussions for youth on impact of Covid-19 had in their communities and the role they can play in containing its spread.

Then there is James Smart and Kizito Gamba who are leading a team of young journalists under Tazama Media Crew and are putting their lives on the line to bring out compelling stories on the effect of coronavirus among the extreme poor, and why quick, robust and well-thought responses are required.

Governments should put in place measures and mechanisms to facilitate co-ordinated, organised and impactful youth engagement in the fight against coronavirus. Most important, young people must realise that they have a critical in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic - knowing that the spread of the virus is a threat to people, livelihoods and development and stability.

Raphael Obonyo

via email