The Cost of Growing Up During a Pandemic – By Adejoke Folayan

NBC News recently aired a documentary about how millennials are the unluckiest generation in modern history. Although a sample population of Americans was used, is it safe to say that this may be true of people born between 1980-1995 across the world, and maybe even Nigeria?

The documentary chronicles how millennials came of age right in the middle of the 2008 economic recession in America and struggled with finding a stable job and earning a sustainable income. It also highlighted how young people who are affected by multiple factors are marrying and having kids later than their parents.

The documentary was released in July 2020, and I  wonder if all the doom and gloom shown in the documentary would have escalated if they shot it merely a year after.

Before March 2020, the goal of the young professional was to earn a stable income that could accommodate their lifestyle, black tax, and the occasional trip to an exotic country if other means of relocation were futile. However, achieving any of these has required consistent hard work for years before one finds their footing.

While several young people were finally finding their rhythm, the global pandemic happened and scattered the progress that had been made. Many lost their jobs and had to move back home. Others experienced pay cuts because many companies were not earning enough to pay what was left of their salaries.

As inflation rose across the world, so did the unemployment rate jump exponentially. In Nigeria, inflation hit 17.93% in May 2021 before dropping to 17.75% in June,  and our current 33.3% unemployment rate is now the second-highest in the world. Of the 33.3%, young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years account for an alarming 42.5%.

The figures might just look like statistics but the 12.9 million unemployed Nigerians are 6 times more than the population of Namibia which has the highest unemployment rate in the world.

This is a very dangerous situation we as young Nigerians have found ourselves in. The most populous black nation in the world has a third of its citizens unemployed and there is no solution in sight. The Nigerian government which has been in two consecutive recessions has not revealed a plan or the approach that will be taken to remedy the situation.

The Coronavirus is destroying many people in different ways. Those who are not affected by the disease are affected by the economic crisis it has brought with it. One of the few relatively sane things that have come out of the pandemic is how governments have invested in medical research and grants to pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines in record time, and companies realizing that the traditional workspace is outdated.

On her part, the Nigerian government increased testing centres and ramped up vaccine distribution. The private sector was also responsive by contributing fiduciary resources for the treatment of affected persons and providing care packages to families affected by the pandemic. MTN Nigeria, contributed 7 million doses of the COVID19 vaccines to African countries while Dettol and its parent company, Reckitt, besides producing hand sanitizers, provided PPE, spread goodwill messages, and encouraged people to keep to the precautionary guidelines. On the other hand, the Coca‑Cola Company provided support to communities in the form of financial aid to organizations like the Red Cross, and product donations to those medical and hospital professionals on the very front-line, to mention but a few.

Despite thousands attempting to prove that Coronavirus is a hoax, one of my best friends battled the coronavirus. She lost her father and this nearly destroyed her family. So for the naysayers, I laugh with scorn.

Months passed and it felt like things were clearing up, restrictions were lifting, people were getting vaccinated, and nations were gearing up for the Olympics. These appeared to be a mere false ray of hope because as soon as people were settling in, multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus were discovered. Discussions about rapid response were still ongoing, and then, another viral disease popped up, Monkeypox.

The disease has slowly been ravaging the country since 2017, yet there was little coverage on it until the US tracked their patient zero on an Atlanta flight from Nigeria. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), there have been 483 reported cases since 2017. Of the 483, 17 were reported this year in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, and Lagos.

Monkeypox’s arrival is ‘ill-timed’ because 100 countries globally are busy fighting the COVID-19 Delta Variants and the economic after-effects of the pandemic, so there will hardly be any focus on it.

It is however worthy to note that precautionary measures for both diseases are similar, so there is nothing new to add to your routine. As long as you continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, sanitize, and get your vaccine, you should be safe.

Battling all these at this point in our lives is maddening. Yet, we find ways to thrive, because, in this country, we cannot afford any other option. Yes, millennials and Gen Z might be tagged the unluckiest generation but we are the strongest and most determined.

There are people and businesses who have leveraged the pandemic and have risen to fame within the period. People like internet comedienne, Elsa Majimbo, and businesses like Paystack, a fintech in Nigeria run by two millennials became a unicorn during the period. It might sound a bit too optimistic but it is the reality of many young people, surviving in spite of what life throws at them.

Some brands and organisations have also taken up the mantle to help enlighten the public on how to observe better hygiene practices. Notably, the Dettol Clean Naija campaign targeted towards teaching primary schoolers basic hygiene habits has been at the forefront of this movement since 2013. Over five million children have also been impacted in Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Ogun State..

So, while we nudge the government to remember its commitments to the youth, we will continue to look for ways to shirk the hand luck has dealt us.

  • Adejoke Folayan is a writer living in Lagos.

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