What do young people need in the COVID-19 crisis? Clear information, but also strong connections with each other at a time of stress and uncertainty. As the lockdown continues, the UNICEF-supported U-Report on the Move initiative has expanded its work to connect refugees, migrants and other young people across Italy. And now its U-Reporters are playing their part in the fight against the disease.
UNICEF launched the digital platform U-Report on the Move in 2017 as part of the wider refugee and migrant response in Italy. The platform enables unaccompanied children and adolescents arriving in Italy to speak out on the issues that matter to them, to share concerns and questions and to receive information that helps them find their way in their new country.
Through Facebook messenger, U-Report subscribers reach out whenever they want to share their needs and main concerns, and suggest and respond to polls that capture their views. Today there are more than 5,000 former unaccompanied children and adolescents registered on the platform, and 14 U-Report Ambassadors who are the most active U-Reporters, promoting and sharing messages through a peer-to-peer approach. Many organizations now work with the platform as U-Partners, providing vital information to young refugees and migrants on their areas of expertise.
Over the past year, U-Report on the Move has opened up to young Italians, who can join U-Local platforms that provide tips and information for smaller communities.
This initiative was in place and ready to go when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Italy. Its contents were adapted immediately to respond to the first – and urgent need – for clear information on what COVID-19 is and on measures to control its spread. A BOT and multi-language infographics have been shared, and there have been three live chats with U-Partners on specific issues: the first with Medecins du Monde, with a doctor providing expert knowledge on the disease, its symptoms and prevention; the second with a psychologist, focusing on stress management, and the third with the Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana (ARCI) focusing on legal issues, reaching more than 5,000 people. More live chats are planned with partners on, for example, job access.
U-Report communities were already sharing their thoughts and concerns, but the initiative is now going further in response to COVID-19, after young Ambassadors reported on the frustration of young migrants and refugees in reception centres. To meet their needs for relaxation and positive activities, the team has developed a full calendar of events under the banner: Stay Home, with U-Report.
These include yoga, capoeira, dance, guitar and theatre lessons, photography, cooking classes and juggling.
The activities aim to strengthen connections across the whole U-Report community, so that isolated young people feel part of a group, stay focused on activities that help them to stay calm, and support each other through this difficult time.
“I live in a reception centre – and sometimes I felt alone,” says one young U-Reporter, Hanna. “Through U-Report, it seems to me that I am not alone, I like the idea there are people I can rely on each time I need information, that we are all there to support each other, and at the time of COVID-19, this can also happen in a fun way.”
As U-Reporter Bassirou Dembele, aged 20, comments: “It is important to stay all together in this and in the meantime, try to maintain that good attitude telling us that things will be alright very soon.” (see Bassirou’s full story here).
U-Report is a free and confidential mobile empowerment platform, giving voice to over 10 million young people in 68 countries on issues affecting them. Through U-Report, UNICEF also shares vital information during emergencies, such as the Covid-19 outbreak response.
UNICEF works with adolescents and young people across the Europe and Central Asia Region, with a strong focus on those from marginalized groups, including refugees and migrants. We are using innovative approaches to amplify their voices through U-Report on the Move and unleash their entrepreneurial skills to benefit their host communities through UPSHIFT.
UNICEF is expanding this work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, striving to stop the spread of the disease and protect the most vulnerable against its impact by building on effective initiatives that are already in place. We are appealing for $38 million for the Europe and Central Asia Region to support this expansion as part of UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) for COVID-19 response.