09.04.2020 Opinion

Youth Key In The Fight Against Coronavirus

By Raphael Obonyo
Youth Key In The Fight Against Coronavirus
LISTEN APR 9, 2020

As coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, and experts predict that Africa could be hardest hit, African youth have continued to make efforts to provide solutions to help reduce the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

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

Indeed, 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 this 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 and Norwegian Embassy to support residents of Mathare slums to stop the spread of coronavirus in the poor neighbourhood. The group has begun a hand-washing programme meant to protect Mathare residents from the COVID-19 virus. Children make up the majority of the people who are washing hands.

What would be the situation when COVID-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 coordinator 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 scientists.

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 coordinating 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 organizing regular roundtables on development topics to allow dialogue among Africa’s youth and prepares 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 the impact of COVID-19 had in their community and the role they can play in containing its spread.

Governments should put in place measures and mechanisms to facilitate coordinated, organized and impactful youth engagement in the fight against coronavirus.

Most important, young people must realize 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.

Youth should work with governments and diverse partners to stop the transmission of the virus and to keep everyone safe and take measures that will bolster the fight against the pandemic.

As Doug Ragan, head of the UN Habitat’s Youth Unit has said and it is true, youth are Africa’s greatest asset and the future of the continent depends on them.

Mr. Obonyo is the author of Conversations about youth in Kenya. Email: [email protected]

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