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UNICEF: Reimagining a healthier and safer future for children and young people during COVID-19 pandemic

UNICEF, in partnership with Youth Advocates hosted a high-level advocacy meeting today to improve participation of children and young people in the HIV and COVID-19 response.

The event’s theme “Reimagining a healthier and safer future for young people” helps amplify the voices of young people who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the impact of the virus on the world’s children and young people is becoming clearer and increasingly alarming. Children and young people face a multiplicity of threats – direct consequences of the disease itself, interruption in essential services and increasing poverty.

They also face disruptions to essential services such as education, health care, nutrition and child protection interventions as well as impacts from severe global economic stresses. Loss of jobs and livelihoods are further impoverishing children and young people and compounding deep pre-existing inequalities and exclusion.

The dialogue held between young people, policymakers and leaders, highlights young people as advocates for the promotion of children’s and young people’s rights around improved access to HIV, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tatenda Songore, Youth Advocates National Director said: “Youth Advocates’ mandate is to ensure that children and young people take a leading role in shaping their future. Whilst young people have been left behind in the pandemic response, we are realizing the important role they play in countering misinformation, raising awareness and shaping policies to reflect their unique needs,” he said.
“Partnering with UNICEF has helped us to strengthen the capacity of adolescents and young people to access comprehensive information about COVID-19 and HIV, fight stigma, and engage their families and communities in the response to the pandemic,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care; Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare; Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation; National Aids Council (NAC), UNICEF, UNAIDS, and other stakeholders participated in the dialogue with young people. Young people shared COVID-19 experiences in the context of SRHR, focused on issues around access to HIV and related services
“This is a great opportunity for us children to be part of the solution in the global pandemic. We have lived the realities, from many different backgrounds and we are happy to be part of the conversation,” said Junior Parliamentarian, Nicole Chasara.

Laylee Moshiri, UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative said: “UNICEF strives to ensure meaningful participation of adolescents and young people in all our programmes, not only as beneficiaries but as individuals with ideas and significant contributions that can help shape the policies and programmes that affect them.”

“When children and young people organise themselves to demonstrate they can act and lead the way in reimagining a better future, and restoring and rebuilding their lives post COVID-19 pandemic, we must come together to support them in that effort,” added Ms. Moshiri.

Under the UNICEF-supported Youth Leadership Program (YALEP) funded with the generous support of the Government of Germany and UNAIDS, Youth Advocates is empowering adolescents and young people, including those living with HIV and with disabilities, with information on COVID-19, HIV and other SRHR related issues. Youth Advocates is also providing counselling and referrals for easy access to HIV and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health services.

Tendai Guvamombe