India Interior

Corona heavy on young shoulders

Preeti Mehra | Updated on October 16, 2020

Youth in UP, Bihar and Rajasthan are finding the ongoing pandemic challenging in more ways than one, reveals a recent survey

The 21-day lockdown in March this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the ongoing fears that persists about stepping out of the house in the midst of active Covid-19 cases surging in the country, has brought with it unprecedented hardship for young people in the country. And as the pandemic rapidly spreads to rural areas, there is an urgent need to understand how it is impacting the lives and mental health of young people.

For precisely this reason Population Foundation of India (PFI) decided to conduct a rapid assessment survey, “Impact of Covid-19 on Young People” among 800 rural youth between 15 years and 24 years in three of the States where it is working – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. Being a non-governmental organisation that works in the sphere of health and development, and conducts programmes promoting social and behaviour change in this area, it was keen to gauge what young people are experiencing and the interventions needed to help mitigate their stress.

Double burden

Among the key insights, the survey revealed how badly women and girls had been impacted in terms of the double burden of household chores imposed upon them. Many of them experienced domestic violence and a cut in leisure time. An increase in domestic conflicts or fights at home were reported by one-fourth of the participants, mostly women. The men reported an extreme rise in stress and anxiousness as the current economic downturn has brought with it, joblessness, economic insecurity, and an uncertain future.

More than half the female adolescents (51 per cent) reported an increase in their workload in comparison to less than one-fourth (23 per cent) male adolescents. Women reported that they have almost no time to watch television or use social media platforms. A large proportion of women in Uttar Pradesh also felt the need for mental health services and have been using them.

On mental health,z the report emphasises that these “informal channels (friends) are not necessarily verified and the information or mediation they offer are not necessarily vetted or appropriate. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop and streamline formal channels of mental health services that are trained, reliable and that are easily accessible to young people,” adding that they must also factor in economic anxiety and be equipped to address it.

Looking at reproductive health, PFI found young people reporting an unmet need for such a service and though reproductive health was declared an essential service there was not enough access to it. The public health system has turned most of its attention to the pandemic. Although nearly three out of five interviewed in the survey had some contact with frontline workers during the lockdown, they were not aware that they could put in a request to them for condoms. More than half the women reported an unmet need for sanitary pads.

Pandemic pain

Considering that young people will continue to experience extreme hardship with the pandemic continuing, restrictions on mobility, education disrupted and a dismal job scenario across the country, PFI has made a few recommendations that may bring in some relief for young people. The suggestions include an urgent need to strengthen the messaging of core information that is disseminated for public consumption during a public health emergency like the ongoing pandemic using television and all kinds of social media. And this must specially reach socially marginalised and vulnerable communities like the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Published on October 16, 2020

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