Author: Dr. K. Rahul S Reddy, National Coordinator, Health Systems Transformation Platform, New Delhi, India The pandemic has been an unprecedented test for…
The world witnessed an unusual nightmare in December 2019 as the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. This viral agent sullied guarded borders following its declaration a pandemic by WHO in March 2020. The pandemic has claimed many lives, disrupted livelihood and halted global economy. Like other continents in the world, Africa had its share of the pandemic, although with initial trifling public health effects. However, as the intensity of its spread increased, the government initiated diverse safety protocols from partial lockdown to uncompromising preventive measures such as wearing of face/nose masks, hand-washing and social-distancing. While these measures minimized the spread of the virus, there is a need for more coordinated efforts between the ‘youths’ and the government to respond to the impacts of the pandemic and prepare for post-pandemic world.
Leadership and Participation in Civic Duties
A stronger post-pandemic world hinges on good leadership and the youths are at the vintage position to take leadership initiatives. First is to take personal responsibilities as patriotic Africans by abiding with all the safety health protocols and support the governments in any pandemic-fighting initiatives they advocate. Also, they should assist the government to promote and promulgate already instituted health safety protocols. They can volunteer to assist civil society organizations in civic duties including public sensitization and participation in health delivery programs. In the process, they will develop caregiving initiatives, health-management skills and necessary wits to lead successful fights against future pandemic.
Development of Entrepreneur Capacity
As the youths leverage on the pandemic challenges, their entrepreneur capacity becomes enlarged as they are provided with opportunities to acquire new skills. This empowers them to launch projects to support the community in fighting COVID-19. For example, during the pandemic, a young African Engineer designed a hand-washing sink powered by solar-energy and another produced hand-gels using castor-oil seeds and ‘Aloe vera’ plant for sanitization. In building a stronger post-pandemic economic system, the government should provide incentives to encourage such great ideas to fight COVID-19.
Technical Intelligence and Research Advancement
Also, as the youths develop(s) pandemic-fighting initiatives, their technical intelligence becomes sharpened; through this, they will champion technological innovations such as developing ‘softwares’ to ease online-learning since most schools are now virtual. They can also build user-friendly ‘apps’ for easier and rapid diagnosis of COVID-19. This innovation will advance research efforts into how the spread of the virus can be abated and can motivate more youths to participate in health-related researches, which eventually will reduce the challenges of unemployment in Africa.
Public Engagement and Health Service Representatives
COVID-19 contact tracing and infection tracking has been a challenge in remote regions of Africa. The youths in partnership with government can lessen this burden as health service representatives and monitoring agents in these regions. This will help the government to know the magnitude of the challenge in places not within prompt reach and can assist in making necessary decisions in case of palliative interventions. Also, the youths can serve as orientation channels in remote places where the knowledge of the severity of COVID-19 is limited and promote equality in access to preventive protocols to minimize the spread of the infections.
Overall, team-work and coordinated efforts between the youths and the Government is essential, as this will create a sense of belonging that can birth responsibility in the African State. The youths are always willing when avail the opportunity, they have strength and can drive innovation that can provide effective frameworks to handle current and emerging pandemics. However, the Government should provide mentorship, consistent motivations and incentives when the need arises. There is no best time to be youthful and useful if not during a pandemic as this; the youths should show patriotism and take responsibility for the African nations.
About the authors: This article was written by the collaborative efforts of Daisy Awuku-Asante, Ewura-Esi Manful, Martha Akle and Joyceline Amanimaa Kwarko and was coordinated by Dr Abiola Isawumi of the Molecular Biology unit at West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana. The Molecular Biology Unit is led and managed by Dr Lydia Mosi and Dr Theresa Gwira, both are Senior Lecturers at the University of Ghana.