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Young people fight for empowerment amidst COVID-19

Sumayo Dahir, 17, is a Form 2 student from Abdiaziz district in Mogadishu. She is also a beauty salon trainee at the Mercy-USA Youth-Friendly Center which operates with support from UNFPA Somalia.

The beauty salon training was going on well for Sumayo and other students until mid-March 2020 when the Ministry of Health reported the first case of COVID-19 and restrictions started taking root around the country.  

“The youth center was partially closed down in June forcing students like Sumayo to stay at home,” said Mr. Mohamed Jellow, programme manager of the youth-friendly centre. “The virus has dramatically changed the livelihoods of people. Many businesses and centres have been forced to shut down or reduce their activities due to the restrictions put in place to help flatten the curve,” he worried.

He said the centre had to explore alternatives and it was agreed that online classes be introduced to continue youth empowerment programmes during the pandemic. “The introduction of online classes has been challenging. We teach vocational skills at the centre and this requires that the trainer and the trainee be physically available at the center so not much is being achieved through the online classes,” said Mr. Jellow.

Sumayo is worried as she has very little to keep her busy at home.

“ I am concerned about the situation COVID-19 has brought about in societies. I don’t have much to do at home and we don’t know when the center will be reopened,” said Sumayo.

Meanwhile, the youth center management has engaged a public health expert who has trained a few students and trainers about the pandemic and measures to curb its spread.

The trainees were taught on how to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.

“Recently, the center opened its doors for Class Eight and Form Four candidates to revise for their examinations. This was done under strict COVID-19 measures such as maintaining social distance, washing hands, body temperature checks and good hygiene practices. The candidates were able to find a safe and quiet space to concentrate on their studies and revision,” said Mr. Jellow.

He said Mercy-USA is at the forefront in ensuring that youth in Somalia do not lose many opportunities during this pandemic period.

Meanwhile, Somaya still hopes that a vaccine for the diseases will be discovered so that her life and that of her classmates would go back to normal.

“I want to go back to the center, finish up my beauty course and embark on opening up my own salon,” said Sumayo.