UKZN Alumnus Served on African Union COVID-19 Youth Advocacy Group
Dr Kapil Narain, who graduated with a medical degree from UKZN in 2020, served on the African Youth Front on Coronavirus (AYFC) - an initiative of the African Union’s (AU) Office of the Youth Envoy and Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
AYFC is a multi-stakeholder advocacy group of youth and intergenerational networks who support the implementation of the African Continental Strategic Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. The group was launched to provide African youth with the opportunity to contribute to youth-led solutions and co-lead Africa’s response to the pandemic.
Involving youth leaders across the continent, Narain was invited by virtue of his experience and passion for global health, leadership and activism. Furthermore, he served as a representative of the Federation of African Medical Students Associations (FAMSA) - a youth network affiliated with the African Union (AU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) - where he was the Chairperson of their COVID-19 Technical working group.
Narain was involved in the development of four policy briefs which were submitted to Africa CDC, these are:
1. Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Tests
2. Risk Communication and Social Engagement
3. Impact of COVID-19 on Vulnerable Youth
4. Mask Wearing and COVID-19 Preventive Practices
Narain also contributed to a report on How African Youth Access COVID-19 Information which was based on a survey conducted in 50 countries. Consequently, as part of AYFC, he also contributed to publishing the policy paper, Facts and Figures of Africa Youth Agency, Challenges and Recovery Roadmap on COVID-19 - a culmination of various consultations containing recommendations on stimulus packages, ehealth and digital innovation, food security, free trade, universal health coverage, and gender equality.
‘Despite the intense clinical environment and challenges of a global pandemic, it was an honour to serve on the AYFC,’ said Narain. ‘Through our efforts we were able to garner real challenges and experiences of young people and communities. Consequently, this was developed into policy documents and reports and permeated through member states,’ commented Narain.
‘The African Union is the first intergovernmental organisation to create a high level policy and advocacy framework for young people to co-lead Africa’s response to the pandemic of COVID-19,’ remarked AU Special Envoy on Youth, Ms Aya Chebbi.
‘It’s also very important that the African Union Member States engage youth in the fight against COVID-19,’ said AU Commissioner, Professor Sarah Anyang. ‘When those policies are being made please bring youth, and when the health sector meets please bring young proficiencies into the conversation so that together we will beat COVID-19 hands down.’
Over the past year Narain has been invited to speak at several events including the World Pre-health Conference 2021 at Harvard University (discussing vaccine inequality), Operation Smile (discussing youth activism), Millennium Campus Network at the University of California (discussing Universal health coverage), FAMSA General Assembly in Uganda, Makers & Movers - Cold Chain 2021 Summit on Global Access and Distribution of Covid-19 Vaccine. He also participated at the Africa Health Agenda International Conference and was recently hosted by health expert Dr Fundile Nyati.
With expert graphic design skills, Narain also contributed to an international campaign, Project Red Zone as one of 35 student artists. This exhibition was an initiative of the Russian Academy Of Arts and
International Designers Association to thank the efforts of frontline workers (www.moasd.ru/2020/07/20/participants-red-zone/).
Passionate about youth empowerment, Narain and four other youth leaders organised the first African Healthcare Students Symposium (AHESS) which attracted more than 20 international speakers and was made freely available to all delegates, empowering over 700 students and junior healthcare workers in more than 30 countries.
Narain is currently serving his internship at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban. He hopes to specialise in internal medicine or infectious disease epidemiology.
Words: MaryAnn Francis