As COVID-19 continues to alter many aspects of our daily lives no matter where we live in the world, in Kenya Amref Health Africa has partnered with governments in seven counties to train 1,400 youth volunteers to support the pandemic response. They’re cleaning the environment while also helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Young people are working with community leaders and frontline health workers to raise awareness of COVID-19 and share health hygiene and sanitation messages with communities. The youth are also carrying out community clean ups to ensure used masks and other waste is properly disposed of.

Through the program, called “Operation Safisha Mji” (meaning, “Clean the City/Town”), youth volunteers are doing clean ups in marketplaces, informal settlements, and congested public places such as taxi stations.

Lennah Kanayangi, Program Manager for Amref Health Africa in Kenya, visited Osiri Matanda informal settlement in Migori County where young people were unblocking sewers and clearing mounds of garbage. She said that it’s inspiring that the youth are finding purpose in this moment of crisis and are actively involved in encouraging people to act to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

“Through the confusion, stress and worry in these unprecedented times it is encouraging that the youth are a resource and a powerful tool in the fight against the pandemic,” she said.

Brian Wilson Ongati, one of the youth volunteers, said he is excited that amidst the pandemic the youth are not sitting idly by waiting for the worst to happen. Instead, they are hard at work providing solutions to help combat the spread of the virus.

“The youth represent energy, creativity and innovation. This team gives me confidence that young people can manifest the best in humanity, a light that will shine for generations to come. They are a perfect reminder that communities should stick together even in critical situations.”

The energetic volunteers actively engage in sharing up-to-date information about the virus by directly demonstrating cleaning and disinfection procedures, such as proper handwashing, and waste management. They also hand out fliers and posters clearly stipulating the Ministry of Health COVID-19 guidelines and the effective and safe ways of wearing and managing personal protective equipment, such as masks.

Youth volunteers received wheelbarrows, shovels and reflector jackets for the clean-up activities and handwashing stations were set up in markets and other public places.

The activity is being carried out with financial support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.