International Youth Week 2021: One Amref For Youth Statement

by Amref Health Africa

Building Back Better and Achieving Sustainable Development in Africa through the Power of Youth.

The world’s youth population is 1.2 billion strong – a number that projected to grow by 7% to 1.3 billion by 2030. In Africa, over 60% of the continent’s population is aged below 25, and by the year 2030, the target date for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, young Africans are expected to make up 42% of the world’s youth .

Young people in Africa deserve to live long, productive lives that include good health, quality education, financial independence, and active participation in civic processes. More recently, young people have had to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated pre-existing challenges faced by this demographic. Despite this, young people continue to be a shining light, constantly innovating solutions and being at the forefront of building back better post COVID-19, as health workers, innovators and community mobilizers.

The theme of the International Youth Day (IYD) 2021 – Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health – highlights that the success of global efforts will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people. In light of the current global health trends, the International Youth Day presents an opportunity to amplify young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, their meaningful and universal engagement in sustainable development efforts, and the need to invest in the most pressing needs of adolescents and youth in Africa.


Investing in Youth Priorities and Policies to Build Back Better from COVID-19

In line with our Amref Health Africa Youth & Adolescent Strategy’s commitments to advance youth agency and increase investments in youth and adolescent programmes, we support the eorts by the global community during this year’s International Youth Week celebrations, and in particular, make the case for the below priorities for young people in Africa:

Ending harmful practices that affect youth, adolescent girls and young women

The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has affected young people and communities in many ways. A recent study by Amref Health Africa on “Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) And Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM) in Africa’’, showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increase of FGM/C cases .

Closure of schools for longer periods, economic losses and restricted movement for longer periods predisposed adolescent girls and young women to FGM/C during COVID-19. The pandemic has negatively affected implementation of interventions by the justice and legal system, health system, and civil societies in preventing FGM/C and offering services to those affected by FGM/C. More evidence showed that women, including young girls are at greater risk of intimate partner violence, FGM and forced marriage as the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic persist.

With such a large population of young people, supportive policies and programmes for youth development are critical now more than ever. Investing in: policies and programmes to end sexual and gender based violence and FGM/C, and policies that enable young people to obtain quality health care during the pandemic period will not only transform their lives but also transform communities, nations, and the continent—helping to break intergenerational poverty, address inequalities, and create a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Africa.

Development partners and governments need to ensure that youth are heard alongside other community and patient voices in the rollout of health and non-health interventions in response to COVID-19. Supporting youth-driven technology innovation hubs to develop effective solutions to address COVID-19, and promote social and gender transformation.

Meaningful Youth Engagement for Sustainable Development

Meaningful adolescent and youth engagement is an inclusive, intentional, mutually-respectful partnership between adolescents, youth, and adults whereby power is shared, respective contributions are valued, and young people’s ideas, perspectives, skills, and strengths are integrated into the design and delivery of programs, strategies, policies, funding mechanisms, and organizations that affect their lives and their communities, countries, and world.

Power Players – Why should we collaborate with the Youth?

The current generation of young people is a dominant force now and in the decades to come. This generation represents the largest cohort of young people ever with the demographic boom across the world. If the youth have an enabling environment to thrive and achieve their full potential, they will significantly contribute towards positive health and socio-economic development outcomes and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Young people are agents of positive change and challengers of negative social norms. Despite the unprecedented challenges faced by young people during this period, the youth are taking on an active role in the global response to the pandemic: not only are they on the frontlines as health workers, but they are also advancing health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators, and communicators. As such, decision-makers must commit to ensuring youth voices are part of the solutions for a healthier, safer, and gender-equal world.

There is need therefore for countries to invest in inclusive support mechanisms that ensure youth continue to amplify efforts collectively and individually. The meaningful engagement of youth in policy and community processes across the region will catalyse action to address their most pressing needs in health, gender advancement and socio economic development. Youth engagement should go beyond more than mere presence or representation of youth in policy-making processes; but having youth accorded the trust, respect, and decision-making authority they needed to have a real impact.

As a result, we are moving beyond the recognition and identification of young people solely as beneficiaries and towards engaging them as equal and valuable partners in projects, research, programmes and initiatives that are led, co-led, and centred around young people, whereby they are equal partners in decision making with other stakeholders, or young people are consulted and meaningfully engaged in the execution of initiatives led by other stakeholders.

Creating opportunities for young people, harnessing their ideas and innovations through youth-driven technology platforms during the COVID-19 period will spur productivity, promote social and gender transformation and reduce the dependency burden of the region, and in the long term enable countries in Africa to harness the demographic dividend and ensure sustained and accelerated economic development.

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 DoctorsAmref Enterprises and the Amref International University.

For more information contact:

Elizabeth (Lizz) Ntonjira
Global Communication Director
Amref Health Africa
Email:[email protected]

Evalin Karijo
Director, Youth & Adolescent Hub
Amref Health Africa
Email: [email protected]

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