The impact of COVID-19 will have an irreversible effect on progress that has been made if governments, specifically SADC governments, do not redouble efforts and move forward with ever greater commitment for adolescents’ wellbeing. Greater economic investment and infrastructure development in health, education, technology and protection is required now more than ever, as is the involvement of young people in the policy discourse.

This follows an exploratory study undertaken by MIET AFRICA and the Human Science Research Council (HSRC), the report of which has been launched today.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, progress had been made in improving adolescents’ and young peoples’ lives, although economic inequalities meant that the benefits have not been enjoyed by all young people. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has not only exacerbated challenges experienced by the most vulnerable but has made every young person vulnerable.

“The impact of COVID-19 creates a looming danger and a global concern that there will be a reversal of progress made over the past 25 years, specifically a claw back on education, sexual reproductive health and rights, and protection outcomes outlined by international and human rights commitments,” said Lynn van der Elst, Director of Regional Programmes at education and development NPO, MIET AFRICA.

WATCH! The Impact of COVID-19 on Young People and Adolescents in the SADC Region

“Like the rest of the world, SADC Member States’ health systems were not prepared for a pandemic of such magnitude. When the COVID-19 was declared a public emergency, only two laboratories in [the] SADC Region had COVID-19 testing capacity. As weeks progressed other countries accelerated mass testing. As governments and SADC, we need to reflect on how to better prepare for potential crises as part of efforts to building resilient health systems in the region,” said Program Director at the SADC Secretariat, Dr Lamboly Mbukumbeko.

The exploratory study, conducted in six SADC Member States—namely, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in May 2020, set out to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on adolescents and young people in the SADC Region. The research report provides an analysis of how COVID-19 has affected the lives of young people across four central themes: access to education; access to health care services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; protection from gender-based violence; and youth participation in COVID-19 response actions.

The report further provides an overview of the realities facing adolescents and young people in accessing various support and services. It reviews the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on protection mechanisms and assesses the extent to which SADC Member States have established normative, institutional and programmatic arrangements to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We cannot effectively establish the necessary investments without listening to young people themselves. Involving the youth in the policy discourse remains critical now more than ever. As key drivers of transformation, their views and perspectives are important contributions and investing in them will trigger a chain reaction that ultimately leads towards a peaceful and prosperous region,” said Research Director at the HSRC, Prof Finn Reygan.

An important objective of the study is to encourage governments and stakeholders to ensure that youth in SADC Region are able to access education despite where they are from, that young people have access to information and services to make informed decisions about their health and sexuality, and that they are given the agency to participate in decision-making processes.

“The response can only be effective if all levels of policy action are involved – national governments, local authorities and civil society – working directly with the populations affected in a co-ordinated and widely publicised manner. SADC Member States should reflect on the experiences of countries that have consistently remained youth-friendly, as part of resilience efforts.   These experiences include a greater focus on increases in national budgets for programmes benefiting adolescents and young people, particularly those addressing inequality,” said Van der Elst.

Access the Research Products here:

Full Research Report_Eng

Research Brief_ Eng

Research Brief_ French

Research Brief_ Portuguese

Research Roll Fold Pamphlet for Youth_Eng

Learning Brief Impact on SRHR _Eng

Learning Brief Impact on Education _Eng

Learning Brief Impact on Protection _Eng

Learning Brief Impact on Participation _Eng