Needing to educate all age groups about COVID-19, the Jamaican government hosted a special digital town hall for children and youth for which it collaborated with U-Report to solicit questions from across the island.
Twenty-four hours after we sent a quick poll to U-Reporters requesting their input, respondents as young as 13 years old who tuned into the digital town hall could see their questions being answered by the Prime Minister and government officials, together with those submitted by other youth on social media.
“What we want is free flow of correct information that empowers reason and changes behaviour. So, we are enlisting our young people in the fight against the epidemic by empowering you with information, so that you can use that information in your household to have your household change behaviour,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the Facebook Live stream.
“How soon is the government planning to re-open places?” asked a 17-year-old female from the parish of St. Mary, the first question from a U-Reporter answered by the Prime Minister. With schools being closed, many U-Reporters are concerned about the impact on their lives and education, particularly exams being held in the summer months.
Others shared the Prime Minister’s concern about members of the public not following medical guidance such as with social distancing. A 19-year-old U-Reporter from Kingston reported seeing a football game of 20 people at a time when the government had already limited public gatherings to 10 people.
“Always remember the safest person is yourself!” added Minister of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge. He also urged young Jamaicans not to discriminate.
“We’re asking everyone to be careful and be cautious but don’t be scornful or beat people up…Don’t resort to violence or abuse or the sort of disrespectful, discriminatory kind of behaviour if you suspect someone might have the illness.”
U-Report will continue to assist the Jamaican government and non-government partners to respond to COVID-19, as part of the overall UNICEF response, as we did previously in 2019 during the outbreak of the mosquito-borne dengue epidemic. Jamaican U-Reporters were also sent a COVID-19 messaging bot to learn key facts and reject myths, produced globally by the World Health Organization (WHO), Red Cross and UNICEF with WhatsApp. The Jamaican version was localised in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
An updated version containing updated information will be issued shortly.