KENYA. Nairobi: When COVID-19 hit Kenya in March this year, many businesses started limping because of the restrictions imposed by the government in line with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. As a result, many people lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. Among those most affected were the youth.
A study by Amref Health Africa found out that even though Kenyan youth had been hardest hit by the consequences of the pandemic, they had found innovative ways to survive and rise up against it. As such, they were found to be diversifying income streams and tapping into new business opportunities such as carwash establishments, farming, and online marketing, taking up manual jobs and plugging into government initiatives such as Kazi Mtaani, an income generation opportunity for the youth by the government where they are given jobs and are paid. In addition, opportunities for continued learning were identified, such as the use of virtual platforms and media.
Evalin Karijo, Project Director, Youth in Action (YAct) who spoke during the launch of the study in Nairobi last week said that the youth’s situation had been worsened by the pandemic, at a time when they are already fighting other challenges socially and economically.
“Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected young people, many of whom are already grappling with unemployment, student debt and political instability, among other challenges. This situation is similar in the Kenyan context, where the social, economic and health challenges faced by youth have been thrust into the limelight following an increase in the prevalence of sexual violence, teen pregnancy and crime for example,” she said.
The study carried out in six counties including Samburu, Kakamega, Homabay, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kilifi, focused on how COVID-19 has affected the health, social and economic aspects of their lives; and will largely inform future policies that will benefit the youth.
“As young people continue to adapt to the uncertain socio-economic times, this study on their lived experiences offers stakeholders valuable qualitative data for consideration to contextualize and map out future policies and programmes to protect youth from both the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19,” said Ms. Karijo.
It was evident as well that during a pandemic like COVID-19, there is a need to reinforce public health care systems and normalize health care seeking patterns among the youth as this would be very key in enabling governments to achieve the healthcare needs targets among the youth. Therefore, there is need to scale up efforts to reach such groups with information on healthcare, form a well-resourced health workforce and health infrastructure, as these are critical health system components required to avoid disruption of essential health care services.
‘‘Due to COVID-19, young people are faced with unimaginable threats related to education, employment, access to health care, and disposable income. Governments need to apply effective mechanisms and recovery measures to build resilience and expand social protection to avert further negative impact,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.