OPINION EDITORIAL: Invest heavily in behavior change messaging to help combat spread of Covid-19 by young people.

That the Corona virus pandemic has unsettled our national life in many unprecedented ways is no longer news. According to the ministry of Health, Nairobi County, Mombasa County and Kiambu County currently remain the leading Covi-19 hotspots in the country. Ministry of Health data shows young people aged between 20- 39 years are the main agents of the coronavirus, majority of who reside in Nairobi & Mombasa.

The three devolved units also happen to be some of the most heavily populated areas in Kenya, going by the national bureau of statistics KNBS 2019 census report. According to the Ministry of Health statistics, 16 young adults aged between 20 and 39 years have died of Covid-19 in Kenya since the first case in March up until July 1, with some losing their lives at home while others died soon after arriving at hospitals.

Ministry of Health data also shows that young people in this age group are the main agents of the coronavirus, with majority residing in the two city Counties of Nairobi & Mombasa. That many in this age group continue to behave with wanton recklessness as confirmed daily positive figures continue to surge is a real cause of national concern.

Following the lifting of cessation of movement orders by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the 6th of July, the need to continue with day-to-day economic activities has thrust many young people back into public spaces around the country, where interaction is hard to control or restrict, except strict personal adherence to Ministry of Health regulations.

Reports by the National Agency for Campaign against Drug Abuse (NACADA) indicating that about 50 per cent of the youth in Embu County for example use “Muguka” stimulant and are abandoning social distancing rules put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 shows the country still has much work to do in messaging for behavior change.

 There is no doubt that the success of Kenya’s efforts  in combating CoVid-19 will heavily depend on the collaboration & cooperation by all Kenyans, including the youthful population in the economically active age group.

It is therefore imperative that the state should now devise a strategic messaging approach targeting this youthful population for behavior change.

This kind of messaging must be built around the frameworks of urging adherence to Ministry of health covid-19 regulations as well as being the youth themselves becoming ambassadors of such adherence in their villages and localities where skepticism about prevalence of the virus still remains high and poses fatal challenge in the fight against the pandemic.

It is vital this crucial segment of the population partners with the nation wholeheartedly in the fight against Covid-19.This strategic messaging must now be availed in platforms most accessed by young people in the economically active age-group, especially on digital media and personalities in popular culture such as musicians, influential comedians and other platforms to aid government messaging.

The grassroots and youthful population in Kenya will benefit much from concerted, strategic messaging efforts, which is crucial at this time to help enjoin the country’s youth in the preservation of lives and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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