Youth step up in the fight against COVID-19
In the face of the pandemic, empowered youths from Togo have been contributing to their communities. Luttah Annette from Young Volunteers for the Environment (JVE) tells the story of how the youths affiliated with the organisation have made an impact.
In late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and caught the world by surprise where thousands of the global population succumbed to the virus. Although a source of disaster and ruin, this pandemic has proven to be an opportunity for young people to stand out in their efforts to fight this scourge.
JVE Togo took to supporting young people, using our technological savviness. They also conveyed the same key messages on COVID-19 and other relevant information about healthy diets. This was very useful for creating awareness, educating communities and bringing back some sense of hope amidst the pandemic. Through the various training opportunities JVE offered online, more young people could finally access tools and materials at a global level that they could apply in the local context.
The youth organised themselves and became engaged in concrete actions of bringing forth innovative ideas and solutions to support community resilience during the pandemic. Across the country, young people designed and fabricated artistic designs of hands-free water dispensers, made protective face masks, soap and hand sanitisers all using locally available material. They raised awareness in the communities with the support of health workers. They showed communities the importance of washing their hands regularly, proper ways of wearing the masks and other preventive measures to adopt to prevent contracting the virus or control its spread.
Other youths focused on using agroecology farming practices to ensure the availability of food within their localities. Various well-wishers donated hand washers, hydro-alcoholic gels and soap, the basic ingredients for maintaining cleanliness as a first step of mitigating the spread of the disease. These practical and economically elevating activities have been keeping young people afloat and have propelled their position in the society, gaining much admiration from local, national authorities and other stakeholders who have provided support and encouragement for the green entrepreneurial efforts.
A new phenomenon, not much was known about the virus. JVE, a partner of ABN, stepped in to train the youths about the virus to create mass awareness amongst the communities with which it operates.
Adverse effects of the coronavirus on the communities
One of the global consequences of the pandemic was the closure of borders and the restriction on movement, leading to scarcity of food and an increase of post-harvest losses since restrained movement between regions left communities without markets. This contributed to an increase in the demand for food and services resulting in high food prices. The cost of living became very high for the communities and resources were exhausted. It has been a similar case for Togo. With a population of about 7 million, more than half of the population is dependent on hand-to-mouth agricultural activities carried out by young people. As an intervention, JVE organised training on good agroecological practices where communities were imparted with the knowledge of food processing, seed selection and conservation to enhance food security and sovereignty in subsequent seasons.
People living with disabilities were hard-hit by the crisis but JVE mobilised the youths to distribute food to assist them.
During these times of COVID-19, JVE learnt that their practise of dialogues between youths and elders was ever more important, empowering them with indigenous knowledge and contributing to the passing on of intergenerational knowledge from the elders to the youths.
Despite the challenges, the youth continuously proved their resilience and have been a great asset to the continent in this time of adversity. However, they remain vulnerable if they are not empowered economically to address their needs to secure a sustainable future. Therefore, leaders, decision-makers and other stakeholders must include the youth in the decision-making and development processes on leadership roles in shaping their future beyond the pandemic.