Feature: Engaging the youth in COVID-19 interventions in Zambia

It has been noted the world over that there is a need to fully engage young people in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic if responses are to yield desired results.

This is because young people play a critical role in the further spread of the pandemic in that they can be engaged as peer educators that can appeal to their communities to take action.

To this end, entities working to advance the welfare of young people have incorporated young people’s innovative ideas in their COVID-19 responses in an effort to ensure inclusiveness and for interventions to be impactful.

Youth Action Zambia, a community-based youth organization that works in low and middle-income communities of Zambia’s capital Lusaka has been mobilizing youths to take part interactive peer-to-peer education and awareness-raising initiatives and community outreach activities that are targeted at increasing youth participation in COVID-19 interventions.

This is against the realization that youth have the potential to transform their communities and spaces if they are given the right tools and platforms.

“The idea is to equip the youth with knowledge and skills so they can take an active role in this global fight against the pandemic and influence their various communities in coming up with practical solutions to this challenge,” said Youth Action Zambia executive director Sebastian Mwila.

Mwila further said that as a result of the various outreach programs targeting young people that his organization was involved in, a substantial number of young people across Lusaka have demonstrated interest in taking action to ensure that the COVID-19 disease is contained in their communities.

According to him, the youth remains a valuable resource that can be mobilized with minimal resources and engaged as agents of positive change more so now that the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He revealed that his organization is overwhelmed with the very big response that it has received from many youths wanting to participate in COVID-19 intervention programs adding, that this is an indication that young people are willing to be part of development processes.

“It is encouraging to see more young people interested in getting involved in COVID-19 programs. This is also an opportunity for communities to invest in the youth because they are custodians of the future,” Mwila said.

He adds that Youth Action Zambia has also developed and disseminated advertisements and short documentaries that highlight the importance of adhering to COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

Mwila also appealed to business houses and individuals alike to partner with charities and reach out to populations in need of humanitarian assistance stating that messages of prevention should also be complemented by measures that respond to immediate needs of communities.

He revealed that for its part, Youth Action Zambia in partnership with Action Aid recently donated tap buckets for handwashing to selected schools and health facilities in Lusaka. The organization also donated hygiene kits comprising sanitary wear and tablets of soap to girls and young women from underprivileged communities.

“We observed that this is also the most challenging time for girls and young women from vulnerable communities because of disruptions to livelihoods,” he added.