We are now in a time of a global crisis. The COVID-19 virus is spreading all over the globe and making it clear how interconnected we are. It is reminding us that we cannot stand alone in this but must help one another. For today and for our common future.
Even though so far most of the people who have had severe symptoms from the virus have been elderly, youth are also much affected. The effects of the virus are visible in the loss of loved ones, in an increasing pressure on healthcare, in the restrictions in everyday life as well as in the lack of food and hygiene products. But for young people the virus also presents a threat to our future. The COVID-19 crisis is not devastating just for the time being, but also for the years to come. How we act now will determine the structure of society tomorrow. If we do not remember this in our responses to the virus, the consequences for youth will be devastating.
Mental and spiritual health
Even though the internet provides us with a possibility to connect to each other, the isolation and lack of actual human contact can lead to loneliness and hopelessness. What is also alarming is the inaccessibility of mental health services during this isolation. Young people going through therapy or using other mental health services cannot access the help they need remotely, which will can lead to severe problems now as well as in the future.
Religious actors, including churches, are more important now than ever. With the isolation and increasing fear we must be able to turn to our faith for consolation and hope. When people cannot gather for mass, we encourage religious communities to be creative in ways to reach people in need. Let us not forget that by using technology we can still pray and worship together.
Fearing the other has become a new normal and though social distancing is of course needed in this situation, its side effects include increased racism and social stigma especially towards certain ethnic groups. We urge ACT Alliance to work on this matter in a way that endorses social distancing while calling for mutual solidarity, anti-sexism and anti-racism.
Lack of resources
At the same time as the COVID-19 crisis is showing that we all are affected, it further makes it clear and reinforces the inequalities we are already facing. Fragile countries are already witnessing scarcity of food and other essential materials. In Nigeria, citizens were called to stay at home without any provisions or basic commodities for survival. Most Nigerians depend on daily income for survival. But with the lockdown in some parts of the nation, that is no longer possible. It is difficult to access materials to promote hygiene such as hand sanitizers, but also food products. This lack of essential resources is the reality in many countries.
Many of these countries have populations with a high percentage of youth, with youth also having a leading role in securing their families’ basic needs. For example, youth in Palestine are exposing themselves and risk being infected in order to provide for their families. The conditions for youth were insecure in the country before the spreading of the virus, but now the situation is rapidly worsening.
Many young people are affected by disruption of studies and unemployment. Youth are represented in informal sectors and in jobs without a steady income, making them particularly vulnerable today. But let us not forget about tomorrow. Youth all over the world are concerned about their future, and the world after the COVID-19. The economic crisis will continue affecting youth and their possibilities to secure a future for themselves and their families. Climate change is another concern amongst youth that can easily be foreseen. We can see that environmental laws are being weakened in order to boost the economy, which is alarming for the future of the planet. Youth are now encouraging the global society to do the opposite; To use this crisis in order to reflect about how we live, and how societies can improve the environmental conditions. In order to prevent one problem, we must not exacerbate another.
Domestic violence and sexual abuse
For many children and youth school is a welcomed escape from a destructive home. Due to the closing of schools both the mental and physical health of children are endangered. Isolation and quarantine are further likely to lead to an increase in domestic violence, of which many young women are severely affected. Measures to implement the Istanbul Convention on action against violence against women and domestic violence (CETS No.210) are of the highest priority all around the globe in a situation like this. We cannot be blind to what is happening behind the many closed doors today.
Migration and refugee crisis
We as youth want to address the terrible situation in refugee camps on the Greek Islands and all around the globe that lack adequate medical and sanitary care/accommodations to face this crisis. The Greek camps are very overcrowded, as they are only set up to accommodate 6.000 refugees and not the 40.000+ refugees, who are being detained there right now. About 1300 people have to share one water faucet and the lack of adequate medical care has already led to the spread of disease like measles and bronchitis. The spread of the COVID-19 virus could lead to a humanitarian disaster. That is why the camps have to be evacuated right now. We call on the EU and other intergovernmental bodies for immediate help for the people in refugee camps, who are mostly kids and youth. This vulnerable group of people can’t be left to take care of themselves in a situation like this that calls for global solidarity.
We are committed to ending the spread of the virus in a way that shows solidarity and contends divisions. To end the suffering today but also to prevent suffering tomorrow. We call upon young people to respond by helping with what they can in order to protect our vulnerable, but also because we must find a hope for the future. The effects of the COVID-19 virus are endangering our future, and the way out of the crisis might endanger the environment. We as youth are worried, but we must find faith and hope. In times of crisis we need the faith-based organisations more than ever.
Although we are separated by closed borders, we are united in our faith and compassion. This we must remember when our solidarity is being tested by fear and sorrow.
Written by ACT Alliance Youth CoP