On 13th May, Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum and the  YHA project hosted a tweet chat under the theme  protection of adolescents and young people from the effects of COVID-19.  The YHA project  seeks to amplify the voices of young people to demand their Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights from policymakers. The chat was aimed at highlighting and finding solutions to the challenges faced by adolescents and young girls in the communities.

The twitter chat had four panelists who included; Hope Nakunda Executive Director: Raising Teenagers Uganda Central region Coordinator- Girls Not Brides, Innocent Nabassa Program officer -SRHR Alliance, Prosper Mubangizi policy analysist and Faridah Luanda UYAHF change champion and refugee representative.

During this pandemic period, it shows that health emergencies of adolescents and young girls have increased; looking at the media stories, some are sexually exploited and abused, married off among others. The threat of sexual abuse for young people especially girls extends past the physical on to the online sphere since most of them are spending a lot of time on the internet.

Some girls who are stuck in hostels have been pushed into transnational sex since universities  are closed and  their parents are also struggling to find what to eat so they can’t provide for them now. sadly their vulnerability to engage in sex for economic benefit increases their risks of being infected with the highly contagious corona virus, STI’s, HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancies among others.

The ongoing economic insecurity has many vulnerable families react with negative coping strategies such as drug abuse, unprotected sex, child marriages, increased debt among others. When schools, universities are closed, young people are enclosed up at home and are way from their safe spaces. For many of the girls, schools are a safe space where teachers are always on the lookout and other adults can identify signs of abuse and intervene in the lives of vulnerable girls. The children are facing a greater risk of exploitation and Gender-Based Violence.  The country so far has recorded 328 cases as of 17th April 2020 and these are the cases that victims managed to report about according to the Uganda Police .

The  twitter chat reached to 1,420,784 million people. This shows the number of people that saw and interacted with the #SaferatHome .

Some of the opinions highlighted by the panelists and other participants

YHA! Project@ProjectYha

Adolescents and young people are staying at home because of the lockdown. To our panelists, here is the first question #SaferAtHome

Nkabiheebwa Mubangizi@Mubangizi1995

Secondly, the community can provide protection that a child’s home may fail to provide. We need policies and programs that are cognizant of ecological entities like the extended family, religious institutions, schools and other sectors that can make child feel #SafeAtHome

YHA! Project@ProjectYha

QN3: What steps should the Ministry of Education take to mitigate the effects of school closures on adolescents and young people? #SaferAtHome

Nakyegera Norah@norah_nunu

Just like it was in the olden days the Ministry of Education should encourage parents to tutor their children while at home. #SaferatHome @NNandujja @zurah_zamorah @KasiitaMark @fbyaruhanga_

SRH-€ducation @KasiitaMark

We all believes that the crisis cannot be overcome without education, in line with the @UN principle of ‘Leaving No One Behind’ and the (#SDGs). A key area of focus is on the evolving implications of COVID-19 for children and youth, especially on health & peace. #SaferAtHome

Nkabiheebwa Mubangizi@Mubangizi1995

@Educ_SportsUg should look at incorporating psychosocial support into the education curriculum. The #COVIDー19 impacts are likely to have far reaching mental health effects on the young people. It is time for the education system to respond. #SafeAtHome #SaferAtHome

Hope Nankunda@nankunda20

The young adolescents in my home have been kept busy by the educational packages that have been provided by the @Educ_SportsUg . They also engage in cookery practicals as they learn to cook different dishes. Exercises are also part of the program #SaferAtHome