Business can do more for health of young people

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Business can do more for health of young people


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Summary

  • Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, businesses have borne the brunt.
  • Movement restrictions, supply chain disruptions and the economic slowdown have led to layoffs, pay cuts and even closures.
  • A year later, across the East African region, many businesses continue to weather the pandemic despite the slump and continue to stay afloat.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, businesses have borne the brunt. Movement restrictions, supply chain disruptions and the economic slowdown have led to layoffs, pay cuts and even closures.

Nonetheless, Kenyan businesses have done considerably well in adapting to the unexpected situation. Many have made unprecedented changes in their business processes, practices and models.

A year later, across the East African region, many businesses continue to weather the pandemic despite the slump and continue to stay afloat.

One area that the business community has largely overlooked has been the impact of the pandemic on youth, who provide a market for their products and services and are a source of labour for their operations.

Being a significant proportion of the country’s population, they represent a huge market segment for Kenyan enterprises, today and into the future.

In this age of ICT revolution, savvy young people have provided leadership in innovations and new technologies that continue to transform enterprise. Needless to say, investing in the wellbeing of young people makes a lot of business sense.

Unfortunately, this demographic has been hard hit by effects of the pandemic. Youth have been on the receiving end of the adverse effects of the pandemic in many ways. It has limited not only their physical access to public services, but also opportunities to earn a livelihood. According to a study by AMREF Health Africa, the socio-economic and mental well-being of up to one third of young people has been affected by the pandemic.

More so, young people’s reproductive health has been severely afflicted. The pandemic has limited access to reproductive health commodities and services. For instance, pharmacies and other dispensing outlets recorded reductions in sale of contraceptives due to supply chain disruptions.

Also, many young people stayed away from these facilities for fear of infection. In a recent survey by #formnigani, a platform that campaigns for contraception, 46.6 percent of youth reported using emergency contraceptive pills because they could not find their preferred method.

Consequently, the country has been seeing a spike in unplanned pregnancies among young people, which does not portend well for the future. This has the risk of derailing their education and careers.

Youth are the future of our country. They should be protected at all costs and helped to thrive by guaranteeing their reproductive health, including access to contraception information and choice in family planning methods.

There is a direct link between delivery of sexual and reproductive health information and products and realisation of the demographic dividend for the attainment of socio-economic development outcomes, including Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda.

Ensuring proper access to reproductive health information, commodities and services for young people means they can properly plan their future and their careers — including when to have children.

Thus, they can stay healthy and available to provide labour for nation building and a market for goods and services today and in the future.

As key actors in society, businesses too have a role to play in safeguarding their future workforce and markets. It is also the right thing to do, for the sake of inclusive development that leaves no one behind.

Addressing disparities in access to contraception can help enhance attractiveness for investment due to improved standards of living.

There are a variety of ways that businesses can contribute to this. They can, for instance, work with the national government to help address supply chain disruptions in reproductive health commodities that continue to limit access by young people. Those that work in the fast-moving consumer goods space, for instance, can leverage their distribution networks to support this.

Businesses can also include tackling young people’s reproductive health as part of their corporate sustainability initiatives, even if it is just arming them with proper information. In communities and neighbourhoods, businesses can work with other non-state actors in the health sector to invest in youth wellness centres that can also dabble up as hubs for innovation and incubation of sustainable business ideas.

Also, businesses involved in pharmaceuticals can work with young people on innovative ways making information available and increasing uptake, some of which can be based on technological innovations.

Okwaroh is an international development specialist and executive director at the Africa Centre for People, Institutions and Society (Acepis)

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