Key priorities for consideration in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children and youth 

Monday, 8 June 2020

The impact of COVID-19 will be far reaching in Africa. All children of all ages, across the world, are being affected by the pandemic. Children and youth are vulnerable to this virus in many ways. Many of them witness families struggling, with government lockdowns that prevent their parents from earning a living having been put in place. School closures, home quarantines, and psychological distress add up to the negative effects on children’s emotional, social and physical well-being.

Many schools in most part of the continent have introduced online or distance learning. However, for children and youth in the rural and peri-urban areas, this means they are further disadvantaged because there is completely no access to this new way of learning, as opposed to those in urban areas where online education has been embraced. Moreover, the disruption of schools in many parts could result in the risk of children and youth dropping out permanently due to households’ job losses. The pandemic will push many poor households to turn to desperate measures just to survive. According to United Nations (UN) an estimated 42-66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic this year, adding to the estimated 386 million children already in extreme poverty in 2019.

The effect on children’s safety is alarming too, with children from families with a history of domestic violence now restricted to their homes. The current situation has also occasioned an increase in violent crimes in both public and private spaces. Children and youth in transition – including those in refugee and Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps – have limited or no access to essential services such as health and protection that are further compounded by the pandemic.

It is important that children and youth do not get excluded in COVID-19 response activities. Children should be safe and protected at all times. No child should be left behind in terms of education and social welfare. As the world responds to the crisis, proper education and protection of children and youth are also essential.

Seemingly, measures put in place to curb the disease have worsened existing inequalities. Experts highlight that in order to fight this virus, citizens need to practice good hygiene by washing hands regularly. However, many of our vulnerable communities continue to be disadvantaged as they do not have access to water and sanitation. How can we fight a deadly virus like COVID-19 if many of our schools and poor communities still have no access to clean drinking water to start with?

African Monitor has been working as part of the COVID-19 Africa Priorities group, which has been focusing on finding priorities that should be focused on, in terms of COVID-19 response.

“We have noted that there are various initiatives at national and regional levels in response to COVID-19.  However, we believe in responding to the crisis that COVID-19 has brought, the youth, children as well as vulnerable communities should not be left behind,” said Mr Yared Tsegay, Senior Programmes Manager and Researcher at African Monitor.

The COVID-19 Africa Priorities group therefore, suggests that the regional and national COVID-19 emergency responses and rebuilding efforts must:

  • Take into consideration the needs of youth and children from vulnerable communities, and should be guided by regional and international laws including the ‘leave no one behind’ principle.
  • Facilitate and ensure children and youth from vulnerable groups participate in the decision-making processes, to strengthen their agency and voice.
  • Monitor the impact of COVID-19 on youth and children that are without parental care, children living and/or working on the streets, children with disabilities, children on the move including refugees and internally displaced, and identify their urgent needs.
  • Support innovative solutions for rural youth online learning and incubate and scale up youth innovation in response to COVID-19.
  • Collaborate with the office of the Youth Envoy to mobilize African youth to respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and promote youth voluntarism.
  • Establish community action networks to coordinate youth support and response to the pandemic.
  • Support a coordinated continental response for containing the spread of the virus, strengthening of health systems, mitigation measures to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic and cushion those vulnerable.




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