SL-born UN youth envoy Jayathma on first official visit to SL

United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayaka, during her first visit to her country of birth, Sri Lanka, as the Envoy on Youth, said that young people around the world have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 has disproportionately affected young people around the world. There are still around 365 million young people without access to the internet. This has been one of the biggest problems for the UN and I think for governments as well to connect children to the internet, so they can continue their learning uninterrupted,” Wickramanayaka said.

Accordingly, the UN has launched “Giga” along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to connect every child in the world to the internet.

Emphasising that access to the internet should be a right, Wickramanayaka also noted that due to infrastructure and financial constraints, other methods have to be implemented.

She further said the lockdowns and restrictions that occurred due to Covid-19 have significantly affected the mental health of young people around the world. As a response, the UN Youth Envoy’s office, along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has launched a programme called “Coping with Covid”, where young people are helped to access tools and resources which assist them in managing the pandemic.

Wickramanayaka has also developed a youth policy for the UN for the first time in its history during her time there in the last three years. She is currently working on implementing it in 131 countries in the world, including in Sri Lanka.