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Consultancy to conduct a research on the impact of and response to COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young people in the ESA Region

Apply now Job no: 541140
Contract type: Consultancy
Level: Consultancy
Location: Kenya
Categories: Child Protection, HIV/AIDS

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Title of Assignment

To conduct a research on the impact of and response to COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young people in the ESA Region

Contract Type

Individual Consultant


ESARO Child Protection and HIV/AIDS




95 working days spread over six months

Start date

From:    1 July 2021

To: 31 December 2021

Background and Justification

The first COVID-19 case was reported in Africa on 25 February 2020. At the time, almost 60 per cent of these cases were reported in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR) (52 per cent in southern Africa and 7.8 per cent in eastern Africa, respectively). While most epidemics cause worry and stress among affected populations, the level caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is considered unprecedented, largely linked to how quickly it swept across the world, the cases and deaths, media coverage, and sometimes stringent containment measures.

At the beginning of 2021, it was estimated that 170 million people in ESAR, of which 95 million are children, needed humanitarian assistance due to conflict, economic shocks, displacement and climate-related shocks. Economic hardship combined to the uncertainty about the future, confinement, limited access to basic services including for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and increased risks of exposure to violence and abuse has become the part of people’s daily lives. Adolescents and young people’s physical and emotional mental health and well-being is thus affected by another crisis. UNFPA, UNESCO, UNAIDS – with youth organizations Restless Development and AFRIYAN – conducted a survey with young people on the impacts of COVID-19 on their lives at the start of the pandemic on the continent (source). The survey findings clearly showed that mental health concerns and psycho-social support emerged as a key issue for young people. One of the young people said, ‘…” personally, the trauma that comes with COVID19 panic, has given me stress and anxiety”. Similar concerns were shared through the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Community Feedback Group . Early 2021, schools have totally or partly reopened in 17 countries in ESAR; yet leaving 83 million children out of school (compared to 37 million before COVID-19) . Disruptions to sexual and reproductive, HIV and GBV services continue in some countries/context. During the pandemic community-led work was paramount to identify and address cases of GBV, mental illness and lack of wellbeing and to refer people in need to services. As new variants of COVID-19 are identified globally as well as in Southern Africa and with questioning on the vaccine’s acceptability, it is also reported that fear might have been replaced with an attitude of resilience and acceptance of the new status quo (source).

As stated in a Lancet article issued in April 2020 “not much is known about the long-term mental health effects of large-scale disease outbreaks on children and adolescents” and there is an “important gap for research especially scarce in children and adolescents”. “There is a need to monitor young people's mental health status over the long term, and to study how prolonged school closures, strict social distancing measures, and the pandemic itself affect the wellbeing of children and adolescents.” While countries in ESAR have increased their efforts to address Mental Health and Psychological Support (MHPSS), mental health services are not systematically integrated into sectoral responses accessing services is limited or non-existent and seeking treatment or accessing services is often considered a taboo. This further prevents a generation of adolescents and young people from developing the skills they need to become productive members of society and to reach their full potential. While MHPSS was primarily addressed in humanitarian settings and for particular sub-populations (e.g., people living with HIV) prior to COVID-19, all countries in all settings suddenly had to set up mechanisms to address the mental health and well-being needs of the whole population in their territory (e.g. travellers migrants stranded at the border; frontline workers; people in contact with COVID-19 cases; families who had been separated, etc.). There was a strong call for advocacy to increase resources allocated to MHPSS with the national systems.

As understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young people in ESA are emerging, the opportunity to conduct a research on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young people in the East and Southern Africa Region thus comes at a key point in time. While related to the COVID-19, the outcome of this work will contribute to partners strengthened engagement on MHPSS in development and humanitarian settings. This is a unique opportunity to inform joint programming for the durable inclusion of mental health in governments’ systems in order to “build back better” and to generate learning for preparedness and response to future health emergencies .

Scope of Work

UNICEF ESARO is looking for an individual consultant to conduct a research on the impact of and response to COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of adolescents and young people in the ESA Region. Available data and evidence review and data on MHPSS before and during COVID-19 - including from other disease outbreaks - from various sources will be collected, reviewed and analysed. Additional implementation insights and lessons will be gained through key informant interviews with relevant stakeholders. The analysis will provide an overall regional understanding and specifically address adolescents and young people (10-24 year olds) in up to 6 countries selected based on criteria developed during the inception phase .

Goal and Objective:
To gain a thorough understanding of the mental health and well-being experiences and needs of adolescents and young people ESA during COVID-19, bringing together available evidence to strengthen MHPSS programming and systems and generate learning for preparedness and response to future health emergencies.

The consultant will:
• Conduct an in-depth desktop review and data gathering of all the available research and data on MHPSS before and during COVID-19 from diverse sources and including other disease outbreaks East and Southern Africa Region with the aim of identifying trends, risk factors, linkages with SRH and at high-risk populations.
• In selected countries, analyze the impact of COVID-19 pandemic – including school closures, disruptions of SRH/HIV/GBV services, stigma – on the mental and wellbeing of adolescents and young people in the selected countries, taking into account gender, age, sub-national, and country differences’ with a gender perspective.
• In countries facing other emergencies prior to COVID-19, explore whether the trends of mental health experiences and needs of adolescents and young people during COVID-19 are the same or differ between humanitarian and development settings; and analyze how emergencies might weigh on the impact.
• Undertake key informant interviews with relevant stakeholders as determined in the inception phase and through the desk review.
• Identify the factors which contribute to the positive mental health and well-being/response to young people’s mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19.
• Document achievements, challenges and emerging lessons learned in addressing specific COVID-19 MHPSS needs during in selected countries across health, protection and social service sectors.
• Provide recommendations based on the findings from the desktop review, analysis, and interviews on the impact of COVID-19 adolescents and young people to strengthen provision of MHPSS services; strengthen links between SRH and mental health services; and, inform programming and policy dialogue on mental health and PSS.
• Using the evidence collected, develop factsheets and other products as specified in the table below for use global, regional and country level for enhanced MHPSS preparedness and response; and integration into regular programming.

Working Relationship

The consultant will report to the ESARO Child Protection Specialist (Emergencies). The work will be done collaboratively with the ESARO MHPSS Consultant, HIV team and UN partners through the establishment of a small steering committee. The consultant will be supported with access to relevant stakeholders at regional and country level.

Outputs and payment schedule

The payment schedule and deliverables are stipulated in the table below:



Schedule of payment

  1. Inception report (English, in word and PowerPoint) with proposed methodology including timeframe and data collection tools

5 days

25 % of the total payment upon delivery of the word outcome report

  1. Literature Review and data gathering outcome report (Microsoft word, approx. 20 pages) on MHPSS/COVID-19 with a focus on:
  • Evidence available (qualitative and quantitative) on the effects of COVID-19 on adolescent and youth.
  • Trends and risk factors defined in literature
  • Gaps in existing evidence

15 days

  1. Key Informant Interviews conducted with relevant stakeholders as determined in the inception phase and KII notes shared

15 days

25 % of the total payment upon delivery of the draft report

  1. In depth analysis and interpretation of findings
  2. Draft report based on the evidence review, key informant interviews, and in-depth analysis of results including findings, lessons learned, gaps, challenges and recommendations to inform future programming. (Microsoft word, approx. 20 pages)

20 days

  1. Final report incorporating inputs from the joint UN 2gether 4 SRHR team and the regional MHPSS group 
  2. Power point presentation describing the method, findings, conclusions and recommendations (in English).

15 days

30% of the total payment upon delivery of the supporting material

  1. Supporting material (1 factsheet per country, 1 advocacy brief, 1 regional brief) on lessons learnt to guide the inclusion of MHPSS into preparedness and response action at country level.

 15 days

  1. 2 webinars prepared and organized to share the results with ESAR 21 Country Offices

 10 days

20% upon the organization and facilitation of 2 webinars

Desired qualification, competencies, technical background and experience

• Minimum of Advanced degree from a recognized academic institution in related field (Mental health, Public health, Social Sciences, Psychology or related field)

Work Experience
• Minimum 8 years of professional experience working experience in Public Health programmes or research, with desired experience in Mental Health and/or Adolescent Health
• Research in LMIC on the topic of adolescents or youth and/or mental health and psychosocial support an added advantage
• Previous experience of qualitative interviews and thematic analysis
• Ability to analyse technical information quickly and present it simply for audiences as well as demonstrating fast, accurate, and versatile writing skills
• Experience working in a multicultural environment, including experience in Eastern and Southern Africa
• Language: Excellent English oral and written communication skills

Language Proficiency
• Fluency in English (verbal and written). Knowledge of Swahili is an added advantage.

Administrative issues

This consultancy is home-based and does not include any missions. The contractor is expected to use his/her own IT equipment (laptop, cell-phone etc.), where operating communication costs – long-distance calls, internet if any should be part of the overall quoted fees (no reimbursement will be applied).


• As per UNICEF DFAM policy, payment is made against approved deliverables. No advance payment is allowed unless in exceptional circumstances against bank guarantee, subject to a maximum of 30 per cent of the total contract value in cases where advance purchases, for example for supplies, may be necessary.
• The candidate selected will be governed by and subject to UNICEF’s General Terms and Conditions for individual contracts.
• Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.


Risks include an inability to receive and respond to RO requests in a timely manner and potential delays in the finalization of key documents. The UNICEF supervisor will take every measure to facilitate the work of the consultant and in particular her/his relations with key stakeholders of this consultancy.

How to Apply

Interested candidates should apply online using the button below.  As part of their application, candidates should provide:

  1. A cover letter that specifies how you meet the desired competencies, technical background and experience (no more than 2 pages)
  2. A short CV (no more than 4 pages)
  3. A fee structure that should include: daily rate in USD and total fee

Candidates with questions about the opportunity should contact Ndeye Marie Diop at

UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of the organization.

Advertised: E. Africa Standard Time
Deadline: E. Africa Standard Time

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