Young people’s role in fighting COVID-19: Your health is an investment, not an expense

Young people constitute the majority of the population in Zimbabwe and this means they have an important role in fighting the spread of COVID-19. This article explores the role that young people can play in fighting COVID-19 within their homes and communities. Above all young people have a responsibility to share fact-based information and cooperate with authorities to ensure that the spread of the virus in Zimbabwe is curtailed.

Share fact-based information

Social media has opened up the world to instant communication and has provided its users an opportunity to be content creators. Unfortunately, this has also led to peddling of falsehoods and sharing of incorrect information across social media platforms (Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter). Young people need to be on high alert in this critical period so that they do not spread myths as fact on their social media platforms. Social media is an important tool for spreading information but could also lead to serious harm if the incorrect information is shared.

In the case of COVID-19, The World Health Organization is a reliable source of information and referring their peers to the WHO website is a responsible act that all young people can perform. For official local updates they should rely on the Ministry of Health and Child Care information sources which include their Twitter handle MoHCCZim, Facebook page Ministry of Health and Child Care and their website. There has been a spike in the sharing of misleading chain messages and experimental home remedies which could lead to physical harm and young people need to guard themselves and their families from these. It is important for young people to share this fact-based information to siblings, parents and grand-parents in the language that they understand. They should also constantly check up on those close to them and remind them to practice the prescribed cautions.

Contribute ideas and actions

In the wake of COVID-19 Zimbabwean citizens have been encouraged to avoid nonessential travel so that the spread of COVID-19 can be contained. There has also been a ban on gatherings around night clubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums, church and sporting activities until further notice. These are spaces that young people frequent and at this point young people need to comply and avoid such spaces as they provide an opportunity for the spread of this virus. Young people often feel invincible and believe they have optimum health which can withstand any onslaught but this belief could negatively affect efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Young people could end up spreading the virus to their relatives and community members who are at high risk of falling ill.

However, the ban on gatherings is an opportunity for contribution of ideas and actions that can be adopted by individuals, families and companies as citizens stay indoors. Young people can be incredibly creative and this is the time for young people to use this creativity to help fellow citizens to adjust and respond appropriately to this new reality. There are also opportunities to explore how food stuffs and grocery supplies can be delivered to citizens which would also contribute towards job creation through innovation. The use of plastic money and innovations on shopping from home also present unique opportunities that can push Zimbabwe forward amidst this crisis. Self-employed youth, hustlers and vendors need to exercise the caution to stay at home and find means and ways to remain in business in the comfort of their homes.

Engage from home

Young people also need to contribute their thoughts towards government and private sector responses to COVID-19. Although parliament has adjourned there is room to get contact details of legislators from parliament and reach out to them during this period. Openly discussing issues that affect youth health and livelihoods with policy makers can potentially improve policy maker’s understanding and responsiveness to youth issues. This calls for proactive efforts by policy makers to engage with the young people and hear their views on various issues at such a point. It goes without saying that youth have the ability to bring new ideas to the table and policy makers need to take advantage of youth’s online presence to engage them for the betterment of communities.

Young people need to take advantage of this period to engage amongst themselves. Young people have started their own youth organizations or businesses that focus on various issues or trades but some of these have not managed to interact with like-minded organizations and value chain traders. This period when young people are being encouraged to stay at home and not make unecessary social visits is an opportunity to explore websites and social media platforms in order to establish connections with networks that speak to their interests. One can contribute to an agenda that is being pursued by another young person through online petitions, blogs and discussions that do not require a physical presence.

Innovate and Learn more

The Youth Situational Analysis which was commissioned by the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) in 2019 revealed that only 17% of youth are aware of the Constitution. Such low awareness and low constitutional literacy compromises youth’s ability to demand services and accountability from government and other state actors. This period when movement is minimized is an opportunity to read and learn about the country through its constitution. There are electronic versions of the Constitution available on various websites and it is up to young people to build their citizenship through exploring the values that make up Zimbabwe and the governance framework as outlined in the National Constitution.

Young people are very active and would want to spend more time conducting outdoor activities but this is the time to stay at home, innovate, reinvent, rebirth and rethink how we work and do things to pass through this new normal phase. Your health is an investment, not an expense and the time spent indoors is an investment into your future. Parents and community leaders have a responsibility to encourage young people within their families and communities to cooperate with authorities and avoid unnecessary movement. There is also a need to go beyond avoiding needless movement to being productive indoors. Young people’s energy and fresh ideas need to be showcased in such a period so that Zimbabwe can emerge from this period stronger than it was before.

Source: Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT)