Nairobi, December 10th, 2020: Amref Health Africa has unveiled the findings of an impact study on youth and COVID-19 in Kenya. The study, titled Lived Experiences of Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for Policy and Program Considerations in Kenya, examined the impact of the pandemic on youth in several counties including Samburu, Kakamega, Homabay, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kilifi, with a focus on how COVID-19 has affected the health, social and economic aspects of their lives.
An overview of qualitative data from youth aged 15–35 years provides a wholistic picture of the key areas the pandemic is perceived to have influenced, including:
- such as increased conflicts, early child marriages, physical and sexual violence, and illuminated inequalities in the education system. These challenges arise from the implications of travel restrictions, lack of income, closure of schools, limited opportunities to socialise, and the inability of young people to manage social pressures and their relationships with parents and caregivers.
- as a result of limited opportunities for income, loss of employment and low purchasing power. According to those surveyed these challenges have led to increased feelings of helplessness, tension and violence at the household level, and fuelled vices such as theft.
- due to disruptions related to access to essential health services. In the period under review, these disruptions manifested in the form of diminished access to youth friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services, routine medical check-ups and menstrual products, as well as delayed service provision and changes in health facilities’ hours of operation. This may lead to unwanted pregnancies, increased infections and changes in care seeking patterns among youth.
- : The study also reveals that there have been few opportunities for meaningful engagement of young people in the national COVID-19 response. Even where opportunities have been present, there has been no clear mechanism of engagement among youth organisations.
Despite these challenges young people are employing innovative strategies to improve their circumstances, such as 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. In addition, opportunities for continued learning were identified, such as use of virtual platforms and media.
“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,” said Evalin Karijo, Project Director, Youth in Action (YAct) during the launch of the study.
Findings from the study, which follows the May 2020 release of a report on Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Effects of COVID-19 among Youth in Kenya, establish the need to develop interventions that support continuity of essential services including strengthening commodities and supplies management and building the capacity of human resources, especially at the community level, as these are likely to be critical drivers of success.
Furthermore, behavioural campaigns, programmes to build skills and strengthen youth capacity for income generation, and scale-up of businesses through state and non-state facilitation provides a solid foundation to expand young people’s social protection during and after the pandemic. This includes design and scale-up of marketing strategies to create demand for domestically manufactured products and increase access to information hubs on the government’s business facilitation provisions for young people, including useful tips on how to register a business or company, taxation policies and funding, among others.
“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.
Data also suggests that during such a crisis, reinforcing public health systems and normalising health care seeking patterns are instrumental in meeting the health care needs of young people. As such, scale up of community outreach efforts, well-resourced health workforce and health infrastructure 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.
The launch of this study occurs concurrently with the launch of three other studies led by Amref: Impact of Community Led Alternative Rites of Passage on Eradication of FGM/C in Kajiado County, Kenya & The Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriages in Kenya; Impact of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS Programming in Kenya and the COVID-19 Response Governance Mapping Initiative.
Notes to Editors
About Amref Health Africa
Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa-based International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO). With a focus on increasing sustainable health access, Amref runs programmes in over 35 countries in Africa, with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners. Amref Health Africa also engages in programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and has offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries: Amref Flying Doctors, Amref Enterprises and the Amref International University.
For more information contact:
Elizabeth (Lizz) Ntonjira
Global Communication Director
Amref Health Africa
Email: [email protected]