Niger: Protecting street children - The youth tackling COVID-19 in Niger

Enthusiastic, dynamic and courageous are just some of the words that can be used to describe Ibrahim. At 22-years-old, he is a passionate young activist who is determined to make a change in his community. A member of the Nigerien Child and Youth Advisory Board, Ibrahim and his board members are using social tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook to share their messages.

Young people are taking up the challenge to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Niger. With the support of Plan International, youth organisations are using social media and going door-to-door to raise awareness of the disease and how to prevent its transmission.

Enthusiastic, dynamic and courageous are just some of the words that can be used to describe Ibrahim. At 22-years-old, he is a passionate young activist who is determined to make a change in his community.

A member of the Nigerien Child and Youth Advisory Board, Ibrahim and his board members are using social tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook to share their messages. “With the information we received from Plan International on COVID-19 and the preventive measures as well as communication materials such as posters and pictures, we are raising awareness about the virus in Niger and the ways to protect oneself from it.”

One of the most at risk groups that Ibrahim is targeting are the street children who live in his neighbourhood. “These are children who depend on the street for food. They are vulnerable and exposed to the transmission of the disease easily. They do not have access to all the channels of communication used by the government to disseminate the preventative measures to be taken as well as the ways to avoid being infected by the virus.”

So far, Ibrahim has reached out to 30 street children in his neighborhood, mostly boys aged between 6 to 13. He has taught them the ways they can protect themselves including washing their hands regularly. He has also given them fabric masks to wear, which are washable and reusable.

“For me, they are not being considered in the response to the disease, they spend all day outside looking for food, without any protection, in crowded places such as markets. They do not have the means to buy masks, so I decided to do something for them, and came up with the idea of making masks. I got the fabric, needle and thread. The rest of the work requires more time and effort, but it is for a good cause."

Ibrahim is the 10th child of a family of 11. His commitment to fighting inequality stems from the fact that his mother was a child bride: "My mother did not go to school unlike her brothers, because my grandfather thought that girls are born to be in the kitchen and take care of her family. As if that was not enough, she was married off when she was only 14. This had a huge impact on her life and on us as children. Being activist, is a way for me to contribute to the advancement of children’s rights especially for girls in my country, so they do not find themselves in the same situation as my mother who couldn't get any support back then.”

Plan International is working with young people like Ibrahim to lead the fight against the coronavirus in their communities and countries. Despite being some of the most affected by the pandemic’s social and economic impact, youth are also among the most active in responding to the crisis.

“I urge the authorities to involve us, young people in the decision making in the response to this pandemic. We have initiatives, we know the best ways to reach out to our peers. We want an inclusive and participative response to this coronavirus,” appeals Ibrahim.

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