Study: Covid-19 battering Kenyan youth into poverty, depression

Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has adversely affected the mental and socioeconomic well-being of young Kenyans, a new survey reports.

The study, which was conducted by AMREF Health Africa between April 30 and May 5 across all the 47 counties, in alliance with the Ministry of Health, Population Council and Youth in Action, indicates that the effects of Covid-19, such as loss of jobs, have heightened stress levels among young people, worsening their mental and health well-being.

"Covid-19 is having significant negative effects on the mental health, economic and social status of the youth: nearly a third (27 per cent) are experiencing more stress and 30 per cent have reported living in fear," the report notes.

The main source of worry and stress for young people is the reduction of income and complete loss of jobs amidst rising expenses, the report says.

This is as 50 per cent of young Kenyans have suffered from a significantly reduced income whereas 22.9 per cent of the Kenyan youth have lost their source of livelihood due to virus epidemic.

The report also added, "34 per cent of young Kenyans experienced increases expenses in the house and 33 per cent experienced an increase in food prices, with more females than males experiencing an increase in household expenses (36.7 per cent vs 31.9 per cent) and increase in food prices (34.5 per cent vs 32.6 per cent".

Ballooning violence

According to the findings of the report, the group also recorded an increase in violence at home. 1.7 per cent of the respondents revealed that they have been victims of violence at home during the pandemic period.

Others also reported that they were fearful due to the rise in insecurity in their neighbourhoods.

The dangers, according to the AMREF report, extends to sexual risks which have heightened for young people. For instance, five per cent of women cannot access emergency pills or sanitary towels due to the movement restrictions, while eight per cent of men reported a lack of access to condoms.

Youth with HIV have also been affected adversely, with 2.3 per cent saying that Covid-19 has cut off their access to ARV medication and 4.7 per cent noting that they are unable to access HIV/AIDS counselling.

Additionally, nearly half of the young people surveyed indicated that they would not be able to self-isolate if infected with Covid-19 due to reduced income or loss of jobs, which makes them unable to afford isolation.

However, the majority of young people are not worried that they may catch the virus. Only 26 per cent of the respondents stated that they were at a high risk of the virus infection, while others believe their risk of infection is low or medium.

Regardless of these beliefs, the report shows that an overwhelming majority of young Kenyans are taking the necessary precautions.

"There is evidence that the majority of the youth are adopting positive behaviour to avoid infection with Covid-19, practicing hand hygiene and wearing personal protective equipment since they started to receive messages on Covid-19," stated the report.

For instance, 99 per cent of young people are avoiding travel, 98 per cent are using masks in public, 98 per cent are washing hands, and 20 per cent using hand sanitisers.