Washington, DC, March 16, 2023 - How to reach young people in the Peruvian Amazon with information about the Covid-19 vaccine? In Ucayali, a rural Amazonian area of Peru, young people arrived with music and colorful costumes to deliver information about the vaccine. The young people, who belong to the Mascaritas organization, participated in the Pan American Health Organization's (PAHO) Youth as Agents of Change project.
In addition to Mascaritas, other groups of young people worked with vulnerable and remote communities in Belize and Montserrat in the Caribbean to encourage others to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The young people, belonging to the Nubeytinu Dangriga Youth Group in Belize and the Montserrat Youth Parliament, along with the Mascaritas organization in Peru, responded to PAHO's call to implement activities to empower youth networks and promote vaccination against Covid-19 in their countries.
"Youth as Agents of Change was an invitation to all organizations working with young people to join us in our work to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and raise awareness for vaccine acceptance in the population," explains Dr. Sonja Caffe, PAHO Adolescent Health Advisor.
In 2022, PAHO invited civil society, community-based and non-governmental organizations, and others to submit proposals to reach vulnerable populations with information about the Covid-19 pandemic and how to protect themselves.
"Young populations played and continue to have a very important role in the response to the pandemic. When they are invited to actively participate in health initiatives, their enthusiasm, passion and influence can have a huge impact on the behavior and health of their peers, families, and communities," adds Dr. Caffe.
PAHO's Youth as Agents of Change project provided financial support to participating organizations, and as a result, the Nubeytinu Dangriga Youth Group trained young people aged 12 to 17 as spokespersons and educators about Covid-19 and vaccination. They had the opportunity to visit schools and share messages about the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine. In addition, they produced social media materials such as Tik Tok videos to reach more audience.
In Monserrat, the Youth Parliament named the proposal "Facts about the jab". They developed surveys to learn about the behavior and attitudes of the population between 18 and 35 years of age towards vaccination against Covid-19. Also, with PAHO funding, they produced radio spots and testimonial videos of young people about their experience with the vaccine and advice on how to prevent Covid-19, in collaboration with government entities and local radio stations. In addition, they held a panel discussion broadcasted live on YouTube on the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of young people, which was organized with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with an audience of more than 300 people.
In Peru, the Mascaritas organization was able to bring puppets and plays to the Amazon region of Ucayali. It also carried out community campaigns in seven localities, including the Shipiba indigenous community, where it promoted vaccination against Covid-19, especially among the population between 12 and 18 years of age. The activities were attended by more than two thousand people with the active involvement of community leaders, educational institutions, municipal and local governments.
This project gave us sustenance for social and artistic work, learning more about our reality, culture, idiosyncrasy, giving us new ideas to create proposals in favor of our community." —Mascaritas Organization, Peru
Activities carried out as part of PAHO's Youth as Agents of Change project involved young people and their communities in disseminating messages about Covid-19. In some of the communities the messages continue to be shared on local radios and in schools.