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Growing evidence documents the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents in East and Southern Africa. We present and explore the longitudinal health and development-related priorities and challenges of adolescent advisors in South Africa and Kenya, including prior to, and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings were co-generated with adolescent advisors in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa (n=15, ages 18-22 in 2019) and Kisumu, Kenya (n=16, ages 10-14 in 2020). Prior to COVID-19, adolescent advisors engaged in a participatory exercise to share and explore their health and development-related priorities and challenges in 2019 and 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, members of the same groups shared their experiences, challenges and coping strategies in semi-structured telephone interviews (Eastern Cape: n=14, aged 19-23; Kisumu n=12, aged 11-16) and group-based remote participatory social media activities (n=27 activities with n=12 advisors, Eastern Cape). We thematically analysed COVID-19 activities, considering them alongside pre-pandemic priorities and challenges. Many of the health and development-related priorities and challenges identified prior to COVID-19 remained issues of concern during COVID-19. These included education; victimization and violence; teenage pregnancy; substance use; household tension, conflict and inadequate family and caregiver support; health and medication concerns (South Africa) and water and food shortages (Kenya). Other issues such as financial insecurity, mental health, and crime were strong themes that emerged during COVID-19, which were not directly reported as priorities prior. Although almost all of adolescent advisors' most pressing pandemic-related challenges were also priorities for them prior to COVID-19, these issues were often discussed as new, and caused by the onset of COVID-19. While demonstrating how COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities, we also suggest that the pandemic may have brought about a new way for adolescents to make sense of, and articulate pre-existing challenges.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Health Med

Publication Date



1 - 26


Adolescence, COVID-19, Kenya, South Africa, health & development