By Faith Lutomia
The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), through the Embassy of Sweden and Diakonia Kenya Country Program supported youth from Mombasa Interfaith Youth Network who were joined by other youth to participate in a COVID-19 Awareness Webinar held on the 6th of July, 2020.
The webinar, whose theme was ‘Safeguarding youth during COVID-19’ saw youth participation from the Mombasa Interfaith Youth Network, Maskani IRCK Chapter and the Kenya Interfaith Youth Network (KIYN).
Participants from each of the youth groups had the opportunity to share some of their fears and challenges during this time of the pandemic. They also gave an update on some of the activities they have been involved in towards creating awareness, sensitization and supporting communities amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The invited guest speaker, Dr. John Okello who is the Health Ministry director and the National HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Seventh Day Adventist Church took the youth through an insightful discussion on correct facts on COVID-19 including its risk factors and the important role played by an individual’s immunity in protecting one against diseases including COVID-19.
He informed the youth on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to maintain a good immunity and taking full responsibility in preventing the spread of the pandemic. He further emphasized on the importance of protecting the elderly and those with chronic illnesses from COVID-19 as they were more susceptible.
“The ripple effects of COVID-19 is what leads to mental health issues, rather than the disease itself.”
Dr. Okello also demystified some of the misleading myths and misconceptions about COVID-19 such as the disease affecting only the elderly and the disease being for the rich. He urged the youth to stay well informed and not to take this disease for granted.
Mental health was also highlighted as being one of the major challenges that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many people, especially young people are currently battling mental health issues such as depression, constant stress and anxiety, yet this is not being dealt with seriously as it should.
“The ripple effects of COVID-19 is what leads to mental health issues, rather than the disease itself,” said Dr. Okello.
The youth were challenged to take up the initiative to address mental health issues in their communities in whichever way they can, as well as be intentional on taking care of their mental wellness.
The youth were also encouraged to not only focus on the negative effects of the pandemic, but also take advantage of opportunities that have come up during this time. Such opportunities include offering humanitarian support and taking up the challenge of advancing technology and digitization which has become the new norm.
The Webinar was very insightful and left the youth more empowered with the correct information on Covid-19, and the challenge is now up to the youth to spread the awareness in their respective communities.
The major take away from the Webinar was that personal discipline and responsibility is the only sure way to curb the spread of the pandemic, even as we wait for a vaccine or treatment.
The youth were grateful to IRCK and Diakonia for the support to engage and participate in such informative webinars and looked forward to more such opportunities.