Emergency Response

Partnerships for authentic experiences.

“It is critical today for Africa to engage and include youth in the process of development. This is a principle we have adapted over years at UN-Habitat and proven successful”

Douglas Ragan
Program Management Officer, UN-Habitat

Working with Local Communities in Emergencies

Youth and youth-led organizations are first responders when things go wrong

In early 2020 young people in the informal settlements of Nairobi identified the urgent need to protect their communities from the COVID-19 virus, who were at risk due to lack of access to sanitation, cramped living conditions, and lack of knowledge. They approached UN-Habitat, the Governments of Norway and Canada, Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), and the Chandaria Foundation to establish hand washing run by youth-led groups across Kenya. By August 12, 90+ COVID-19 Prevention stations run by 180 youth from 34 youth-led groups had been established with over 2,000,000 hand washes done.

We work alongside local communities for guaranteed results.

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Youth-led organizations globally have worked with local and national governments, leading efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. In Kenya, hand washing facilities set up in informal settlements and run by the youth were popular among local residents.

“Many young people have come to realize that COVID-19 is not only a health issue, but it effects every area of our livelihood, every aspect of our community and our social life” said Gwendolyn Myers,  Liberian National Youth Task Force, “Since the outbreak in Liberia of March 2020 we have noticed an imbalanced effect on certain groups of people, women and children and people with disabilities. Young people continue to play critical roles in information dissemination, logistics and the distribution of relief materials to these communities.”

One key aspect of the meeting focused on the need to empower communities to take action, as reflected in UN-Habitat’s COVID-19 Response Plan.

“One of the three focuses of our Response Plan is the support of local government and community driven solutions, especially in informal settlements,” said UN-Habitat’s Executive Director.

“Many youth of today have stepped up to the plate. Young people are redefining the world as we know it. Youth are demanding the change you want to see from leaders,” stated Under-Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, Special Adviser on the United Nations 75th Anniversary. “We are seeing it across the globe – youth are making their voices heard. You are creating movements that ripple across cultures and borders. You are taking the future into your own hands and ensuring that progress happens.”                                         

One of the main sponsors of the youth-led action against the virus has been the Government of Canada, which is funding COVID-19 prevention and hand washing stations in Nairobi and Mandera in Kenya, and Kismayo in Somalia.

“Canada believes in the strength of young people and their power to create positive change. This is one of the reasons we are so proud to support initiatives that empower young men and women to play a meaningful role in community-led pandemic responses,” stated Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, Lisa Stadelbauer.

“We’re proud and honoured to work with UN-Habitat to partner with youth-led organizations such as the Mandera Anti Drug Movement,  Mathare Environmental One Stop and YPEER-Somalia through our Canada Fund for Local Initiative programme.”

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Field visit in Mathare slum, Nairobi, Kenya during COVID-19, Food distribution of the TEAM PANKAJ in cooperation with the youth in Mathare. Food supply for the poorest of the poor in the settlement. Food was donated by the Indian-Kenyan community.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Our youth engagement program challenges governments and other organizations to adopt best practices and be encouraged to conduct further research study and platforms designed to foster youth-adult partnerships for resilience.

COVID-19 Prevention in Slums

Working on improving youth livelihoods

Young people in developing economies are taking on jobs that fall short of their aspirations. Mathare youth want similar life goals such as job security and formal employment, and most of them want to work for the public sector and to become professionals.


Any comprehensive disaster management that is designed to incorporate youth in its programs, not only benefits creativity and energy of young people but also in the process strengthens partnerships for resilience.