Youth volunteers take to the streets to mobilize against COVID- 19 in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa

By Demissew Bizuwerk
Youth Volunteer
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
30 September 2020

As COVID-19 continues to affect many aspects of daily life, UNICEF has partnered with the Ethiopia Red Cross Society (ERCS) to train youth volunteers to work with community leaders, frontline health workers and women groups to raise public awareness and minimize impact. The volunteers conduct their activities in marketplaces, slums and congested public places like taxi stations. This photo essay covers their daily routines. 

COVID-19
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
The Saris Market in the south of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, is bustling with people buying or selling merchandise ranging from chickens, assorted vegetables and spices to household utensils and clothing. Every day, the youth volunteers walk around the market and the nearby taxi station to sensitize people on COVID-19. They also conduct home visits. COVID-19 has affected everybody but more especially people living hand-to-mouth like Sihine Teklu (L) and Fetia Hussien (R). Both make a living selling vegetables in the Saris Market. Sihine and Fetia appreciate the work of the youth volunteers, who frequently reach out to them with COVID prevention messages. “They are doing this for us. We need to follow their instructions, as we do the police, when they tell us to wear a mask,” says Fetia.
Mihret Haimanot
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Mihret Haimanot, a third-year university student, speaks to vegetable vendors about how to wear a mask properly. She is volunteering her time for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society since her university is closed due to coronavirus. “Volunteerism is all about humanity. I am glad I am a part of it. My family also supports me with my work.”
Fetia Hussine
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Fetia Hussine, a mother of two, makes a living by selling vegetables in the Saris Market. COVID-19 has badly affected her fragile livelihood. Every day is a struggle to make an income amid a raging pandemic. “I have to sell vegetables and make money to support my family,” she says. “Otherwise, how would we make it?’’
Yordanos Gedetta
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Yordanos Gudetta, a youth volunteer, talks to a young man about the coronavirus inside the bustling Saris Market. She is concerned about COVID-19 spreading more rapidly if people do not take prevention measures seriously. “Many people encourage us to continue our work when we talk to them about COVID-19,” she says. “But there are those who say, ‘here come the coronas,’ when they see us approaching.”
Yordanos Gudetta
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Yordanos is grateful to be part of a young force of volunteers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes her efforts are helping to stem the rapid spread of the pandemic in communities and is determined to do whatever she can to address denial and complacency. “I wish it [the pandemic] will be over soon and we can get back to our lives. I really miss school and my friends,” she says.
Youth Volunteer
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
youth volunteers
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye

In the southern zone of Addis Ababa, 259 youth volunteers are actively engaged in creating awareness about COVID-19 in areas like the bustling Saris Market and the nearby taxi station. The volunteers use a mobile speaker to amplify their message and conduct home visits.  

Mandefro Negash
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Mandefro Negash, head of the ERCS Southern Addis Ababa Zone, leads the community awareness activities in the Saris Market. “This is a very busy area,” he says. “The market is next to a taxi station and it is teeming with people every day. That is why we focus our awareness-raising activities here.”
Youth Volunteer
UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Youth Volunteer
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective actions that people can take to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and the youth volunteers sensitize people to keep their hands clean through frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers.  

Aster Bizago
UNICEF Ethiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye
Four-year-old Beamlak rubs her hands with sanitizer. Her mother, Aster Bizago, makes a living by selling vegetables. Aster is worried about her child’s safety and the decline of her revenues. The loss of income, especially for families engaged in the informal sector where women are predominantly the majority, will push more people deeper into poverty.