Somalia

Somali youth leading in campaigns during COVID-19 times

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In June 2021, Osman Mohamed, 18, from Mogadishu, felt unwell for over a week. He was quickly getting tired and was coughing a lot. He decided to go to the hospital and was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I felt so stressed out when the doctor said I had tested positive for the virus. I was scared. I was advised to go into isolation immediately. I wasn’t too sick, so I wasn’t hospitalized,” says Osman.

He says being alone for hours on end made him reflect on how he may have contracted the virus. “I had been in denial and did not take heed to the messages on preventing the spread of the virus. Many of my friends and many young people were going about as normal and were not wearing masks. We continued to gather at the beach as if everything was normal.”

Osman says there were instances during the isolation period that he felt pretty ill. “I had splitting headaches and diarrhoea. It is during one of those moments that I made a vow to myself that I would take it upon myself to help other young people to avoid contracting COVID-19 and to also help in stopping further spread of the virus.”

As a member of the Y-Peer, Osman’s idea was easy to implement. The Youth Peer Education Network (Y-Peer) is a ground-breaking and comprehensive youth-to-youth initiative supported by UNFPA, consisting of more than 500 non-profit organizations and governmental institutions. Its membership includes thousands of young people working in many areas, including those involving adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

The Y-Peer networks across Somalia have been creating innovative and youth-led communications and advocacy campaigns on the COVID-19 pandemic alongside an existing campaign on substance abuse prevention, using social media, and local radio stations and other forms of engagements.

“An animated video production was developed to provide information about COVID-19 and eliminate the myths and misconceptions related to the virus. The video clip was published on social media and sponsored on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” says Abdihakim Ahmed Abdullahi, Programme Officer, Adolescent and Youth for UNFPA.

He says one of the videos was about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, while the other emphasized the prevention, mitigation, and response to the pandemic.

“According to the reports of the social media platforms, 25,000 users watched the videos. The target was to ensure that the information reached as many people as possible, including in rural areas where information about COVID-19 was scarce,” says Abdihakim.

He explains that a series of radio talk show programmes were conducted in Mogadishu, allowing young people to debate on the effects of COVID-19 on social and economic issues and building a consensus for youth action against drug abuse.

“A total of 10 radio programs were broadcast. Over 1,200 young people participated in the radio programs through various means including but not limited to listening, debating as panellists and through phone call-ins,” says Abdihakim.

The Y-Peer is also carrying out other campaigns on the role of youth in building sustainable peace and intergenerational dialogue between opinion leaders and young people.

Osman has since recovered and is playing an active role in the campaigns.

“I feel so fulfilled to be contributing to serving fellow youth in contributing towards stopping the spread of COVID-19 and on other important issues to do with youth empowerment,” says Osman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           **\---Pilirani Semu-Banda**