Pandemic participation: adolescent volunteers in Tajikistan fight back against COVID-19

Tajik adolescents and youth have been joining forces in 12 districts in an effort to protect their families and communities from COVID-19.

Husnoro Dodikhudoeva
Volunteers within Center for Additional Education in Vahdat came together in order to produce masks for the local population.
03 June 2020

Before COVID-19 resulted in school closures in Tajikistan on 27th of April, adolescent volunteers had begun taking initiative in their communities by working alongside Youth Affairs Units at local district level and disseminating critical information about COVID-19 among their peers.

Niginakho Shukurova, one of the multiple volunteers supporting local awareness raising initiative in Bobojon Gafurov district.
Niginakho Shukurova, one of the multiple volunteers supporting local awareness raising initiative in Bobojon Gafurov district.

“We are near the border with Kyrgyzstan where COVID-19 has already cost many lives, so we are doing everything possible to prevent its spread in our community.”

Niginakhon Shukurova

Volunteers in Northern Tajikistan have been working to help curb the spread of the virus in a variety of ways. One group of adolescents created a 'radio programme' about basic COVID-19 prevention which was broadcast over a school intercom during breaks. Another performed shows for younger children and parents in which basins, soap, and water were used as a means to demonstrate best hand washing practice.

Adolescent volunteers also shared pamphlets and DVDs (developed by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection) on COVID-19 prevention across their communities.

Umedjon with his peer network conducting a community outreach and sharing practical information on how to keep yourself safe in the face of pandemic

"This has been an amazing experience for me. I have learned to work better in a team and be more proactive. I can now see how important taking initiative is for the betterment of society.”

Umedjon Safarzoda, 16, adolescent volunteer

Fear around the COVID-19 coming from the news has increased the prices for the masks in the market, barring adolescent and children opportunity to purchase them at the high prices. To address the rising need for protective equipment and access to masks, volunteers from Dushanbe produced re-usable masks.

It took just ten days in early April for more than 12,000 re-usable masks to be produced by the volunteers, which they then distributed together with antiseptic to children and teachers. Beneficiaries included those studying and working at specialised schools for children with visual impairments and for children in institutions who have come into conflict with the law.

As part of a broader campaign on social media, a video clip on how to prepare antiseptic at home was filmed by mentors and youth from the Innovation Lab of the Tajik State University of Law, Business and Politics in Khujand and posted on social networks.

"Due to COVID-19 access to basic personal hygiene necessities and plays a key role in protecting the health of individuals. We decided to create an antiseptic with household products, as recommended by the WHO, and to record it so that more people could be able to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other diseases."

Abdurahmon Makhmudov, mentor of the Innovation Lab

The response to the clip, which has received more than 9,000 views by adolescents and youth to date, has been overwhelmingly positive.

In light of the increasing number of cases in Tajikistan, adolescents also addressing the issues of the anxiety, wellbeing and health of their peers, whose life has been impacted by the COVID19. Active adolescents are using the variety of platforms to share their thoughts, advise to each other on how to cope with spending more time at home, spending time to learn, being healthy while maintaining their mental wellbeing.

As of May 2020, these prevention activities have reached more than 60,000 views adolescents and youth across the country. While adolescent volunteers have not been able to reach out to others in person since the country’s lockdown began, they continue to work alongside UNICEF, the Committee for Youth Affairs, Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan and other adolescent-led organisations to spread the word about key safety measures that will help to keep adolescents and their families safe nationwide.

As UNICEF Representative in Tajikistan, Mr Makkawi Khogali says: “The work of the adolescent volunteers has shown how their active involvement in society and in innovation can contribute to support society as a whole, especially in crisis situations.”

UNICEF Tajikistan is working to support adolescents and youth across the country throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help them become agents of positive change and stem the virus’s spread in the community. This support includes empowering adolescents with relevant skills and competencies that will allow them to share life-saving information within their communities, participate during this pandemic and positively contribute towards fight against COVID-19.