South Africa, still struggling to control two other epidemics – HIV and TB – must now contend with the negative effect experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a detrimental impact on our already overburdened health system. Many who should have accessed health services disengaged from treatment and care for fear of contracting COVID-19, long queues, crowded spaces, and legal restrictions due to lockdowns. Youth already disproportionately affected by poor service delivery before COVID-19 are among the many community members who restricted their access to healthcare. Unfortunately, and yet again – it is young women and girls who are most affected as reports from clinics indicate a decline in the number of women and girls receiving critical sexual and reproductive health care, including antenatal services, and family planning. CHIVA Africa believes that this sad reality cannot continue, especially in a world with the largest number of youths in history.
However, we must acknowledge that youth alone cannot make the world a better place, but they can be engaged alongside community and patient voices in the delivery of health and non-health interventions. Today, as we acknowledge International Youth Day, it is time to hear their voices, promote youth empowerment, and involve our young people so that they can address their challenges and create a future for themselves and others. We must listen to and learn from what they say and work together to meet their needs.
The provision of healthcare which includes health education, promotion, prevention, and access to relevant health services is critical for all our people but even more so for our youth. The call for youth engagement and involvement is both recognised and supported by our Department of Health. The establishment of Youth Zones promoting the implementation of adolescent and youth-friendly services and youth representation at a clinic and community level is compulsory for every health facility providing public healthcare. These structures are designed to support and target our youth to make decisions and take responsibility for their health – but it is our responsibility as healthcare workers to ensure that these structures are implemented and maintained.
CHIVA Africa embraces the call for youth engagement and supports the implementation of the National Health guidelines to ensure that every young person in rural and underserved communities receive youth-friendly treatment and care.
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