By Abdul Rahman Mariam, Generations For Peace Pioneer in Ghana

It has been almost a month that we have been in partial lockdown in Ghana.[1] When the outbreak first started, I found myself panicking. I was very overwhelmed by the amount of rumors and false information spreading on social media.

Despite the efforts of the government to raise awareness about COVID-19, many people are still misinformed and do not respect the precautionary measures. While some have difficulties understanding the importance of social distancing, others have limited access to daily updates and information.

Like many of my youth peers, I felt helpless at first. I did not know what to believe, but I knew I wanted to help in any way that I could. I took the first step to follow only trusted sources by deciding to rely solely on the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates regarding the outbreak. Although a small step, it really helped calm me down and find some sense of control over the situation.

Across my country, youth are recognising that small steps like this create long-lasting impacts. Young people have been extremely resourceful in helping their communities come together in solidarity while staying physically apart. From making hand sanitisers using the WHO’s recipe to creating solar-powered and hand-sensitive water taps and Veronica buckets (a bucket with a tap fixed at the bottom and a basin) to encourage frequent hand washing, youth have been very creative in finding ways to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

An example of the content Mariam shares on her social media platforms.

Being educated with accurate knowledge gave me the confidence to do more to actively help my peers and those most vulnerable around me. While staying at home and respecting the safety tips provided by the WHO, I have been sharing helpful information about COVID-19 on my social media. I have also recorded a video in the local Hausa dialect to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention and protection. I even created a blog where I share daily tips on stress management, personal growth, home schooling, and ways to keep busy at home.

Yet, I am aware that having access to information and resources is not easy for everyone. As a Teacher at a junior high school in the remote area of Volta as part of the organisation Lead for Ghana, I have noticed how the lack of information and resources reflects inequalities in the access to education. For example, while some students can learn online, others have limited access to technology. This poses a real challenge as we try to share information.

In order to help bridge this gap, I give classes to my students over the phone every week. I also take this opportunity to gauge their knowledge about COVID-19 and stress the importance of abiding by the precautionary measures. I am proud to see that they have been playing a key role in informing their own communities. Through informal discussions, they now educate their parents and families in Ewe, the regional dialect, ensuring to share only verified information regarding the coronavirus.

Another issue in the Volta region and many isolated areas is the lack of hand-sanitisers and facemasks. To date, Volta has recorded 9 cases of coronavirus, and it is essential that professionals are equipped with the necessary resources to prevent further spread of the virus. In order to help, my fellow colleagues and I recently applied for funding to provide those living in Volta with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks, gloves, and face shields.

Now more than ever, I believe that the world needs to work together and maintain a high sense of optimism to overcome this crisis. As I have been telling my students: “We have to be part of the solution, not the problem. This too shall pass.”

[1] President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana lifted the partial lockdown on 19 April 2020.

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