Young people around the world remain optimistic that an inclusive, resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is possible. With creativity and dedication, they are helping develop solutions to make sure communities emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.
COVID-19 may have taken the most serious physical toll on older patients, but it is young people who have experienced the brunt of the pandemic’s impact worldwide.“Young people are less at risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 but will be the most affected by the long-term consequences of the pandemic, which will shape the world they live and work in for decades to come,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).Stay-at-home policies and social distancing measures have interrupted youth education, made it difficult to retain or find employment, and led to an increase in mental health conditions. Many children are not progressing in school, with 101 million falling behind on reading proficiency in 2020, threatening two decades of gains in education. In the same year, global adult employment fell by 3.7%, while youth employment declined by 8.7%. The unemployment figures for young women are even more bleak, and they face additional, unique challenges, including increased vulnerability to domestic violence and child marriage.
Channeling youth energies
Yet, despite these troubling trends, young people have also been an energetic force at the forefront of developing creative solutions to an inclusive, sustainable pandemic recovery. Seeing these efforts, the WHO has been working on integrating youths into its work and policies. Leading this initiative is Diah Saminarsih, the Director-General’s Senior Adviser on Gender and Youth. Since 2018, she has been responsible for exploring how WHO can better serve young people, and how they, in turn, can contribute to the mission of the Organization.“I would like young people to have a role in every possible element that exists: advocacy, policymaking, research and science, sexual and reproductive health, gender — across every possible angle,” she says.
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