COVID-19: Young people should be prioritized in recovery efforts
JAKARTA, 28 July 2020 – The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 is taking a toll on children and young people across Indonesia, and they should be prioritized in recovery efforts, said UNICEF today. While older adults are at higher risk for severe illness, young people are likely to bear the brunt of the long-term health, economic and social costs.
Young people aged between 10 and 24 make up 66 million people, or 25 per cent of the population. It is therefore crucial to prioritize young people in the COVID-19 response and to commit to a recovery that includes and engages them as partners in finding solutions to the socio-economic challenges the country faces.
For the majority, schools remain closed, depriving young people of the social interaction, services and support that physical schools provide. In many families facing financial constraints, children and young people risk being pushed out of education towards household and caretaking responsibilities, and for some, child marriage. Parental job losses result in scarce resources, which put additional stress on families, and may lead to mental health issues. The additional stresses may also lead children to be more vulnerable to experiencing or witnessing violence.
“One of the defining messages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that older people are more affected by the virus,” said UNICEF Chief of Communication Thierry Delvigne-Jean. “Yet, young people have been hit by COVID-19 in so many ways: they have been missing out on school, they have seen their parents lose their jobs or get sick. And they will also face the longer-term impact on the economy, which will affect their future job opportunities.”
Since early March, UNICEF has conducted a series of polls through SMS and instant messaging apps, via the engagement platform U-Report. The polls collectively generated around 33,000 responses from adolescents in all 34 provinces on several aspects of the impact of COVID-19, revealing that:
- 1 in 10 had experienced violence at home;
- 57 per cent faced economic issues as their parent’s jobs were affected;
- 62 per cent of those studying online said they would need help with internet access as well as teachers’ guidance to navigate online learning, if the pandemic continued.
Unless children and young people are prioritized in recovery efforts, the impact of COVID-19 may persist throughout their lives. Actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on young people include:
- The longer children are out of education, the more likely they are to drop out altogether. Many also feel anxious about returning to school, adding to stresses and possible increase in drop out, so it is crucial to scale-up home learning options – including no-tech and low-tech options. When schools reopen, investments in quality education and skills development must be increased to ensure a generation of children and young people is not left behind.
- As millions of parents struggle to maintain their livelihoods and income through the economic downturn, governments must sustain financial support to families through social protection programmes, including cash transfers, to ensure equal opportunity for every child.
- Access to key social services and mental health support must be a priority – preparing for an increase in demand, supporting children remotely and investing in a social workforce. When planning their COVID-19 response, governments must account for the unique risks of girls and vulnerable children, including those who face discrimination and stigma.
Listening to young people and engaging them as equal partners in the country’s recovery is also key to an effective response. Despite the challenges they face, when given a platform, young people can share their solutions and creative ideas, which in turn can help shape their future.
The COVID19Diaries campaign, for example, invites young people to post on social media about how the pandemic is impacting their daily lives and the steps they are taking to protect themselves and their families. To date, the campaign received over 500 submissions, on topics as diverse as mental health, sanitation hygiene and social interactions, and reached nearly 31 million users across the country.
“The efforts of young people in Indonesia to respond to COVID-19 have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Baiq Niki, a youth representative from West Lombok District who has been actively promoting the importance of taking IFA (iron folic acid) supplements among her peers through WhatsApp and social media. “Around the country, children and adolescents from all backgrounds are stepping up to support each other and ensure their voices are heard during this time of crisis.”
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.