The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently unveiled its pioneering Commission on Social Connection, a visionary initiative aimed at addressing the prevalent issue of global social isolation. This vital move comes amidst growing recognition of the indispensable role of social connections in fostering mental health and overall well-being, especially among the younger generation.
Commissioner Chido Mpemba, appointed as the youngest co-chair in a WHO Commission, stands alongside Dr. Vivek Murphy, the 21st Surgeon General of the U.S. State Department, known for his prior service during the Obama administration.
During the e-launch event, Commissioner Mpemba highlighted the profound impact of social isolation across different age groups. Startling statistics revealed that 1 in 4 older individuals globally and 5–15% of adolescents face social isolation. As the African Union Chairperson’s Youth Envoy, her observations poignantly depicted the struggles faced by young people in today’s digital world, where genuine human connections often take a backseat to online interactions.
“Despite increased digital engagement, many young individuals have sought solace in online platforms, highlighting the complex relationship between technology and authentic human connections,” remarked Commissioner Mpemba. Her insights underscored the delicate balance between digital connectivity and the need for genuine interpersonal relationships.
The Commissioner’s reflections extended to the African continent, where a burgeoning young population grapples with multifaceted challenges like displacement and unemployment. Here, digital spaces, while providing solace for some, present limitations that hinder genuine human connections. Her impassioned call to action urged global communities to embrace Ubuntu’s essence, fostering meaningful connections and bridging societal gaps.
“Let us translate Ubuntu into actionable strategies globally, eradicating loneliness and nurturing robust social ties for holistic well-being,” she passionately emphasised. Her rallying cry encapsulated the spirit of the Commission’s mission: to leverage the power of social connections as a catalyst for global development.
The distinguished Commission also includes esteemed members such as Ayuko Kato, the Japanese Minister in charge of loneliness and isolation; Jakob Forssmed, Sweden’s Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health; and Dr. Cleopa Mailu. Additionally, the roster features prominent figures like Haben Girma, a US disability rights advocate, and Karen Desalvo, US Chief Health Officer at Google.
This Commission’s formation is not just symbolic; it signifies a collective effort to address an issue transcending borders, age, and socio-economic boundaries. The collaboration of such esteemed individuals underscores a collective commitment to crafting effective solutions to combat social isolation globally.
Dubravka Suica, Vice-President of the European Commission; Ayuko Kato, the Japanese Minister in charge of loneliness and isolation; Khalid Ait Taleb, the Moroccan Minister of Health and Social Protection; Jakob Forssmed, Sweden’s Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health; Cleopa Mailu, Kenyan Permanent Representative to the UN; Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatun Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Haben Girma, a US disability rights advocate; Hina Jilan, a Pakistani elder and human rights lawyer; and Karen Desalvo, US Chief Health Officer at Google, are the other commissioners.
Commissioner Chido Mpemba, with her youthful vigour and unwavering dedication, spearheads the Commission’s mandate. Together, they aim to navigate the intricate web of societal challenges, weaving genuine human connections that transcend geographical confines. Their ambitious vision holds the promise of transforming isolated spaces into interconnected communities, fostering a world where social connection is revered as a cornerstone of holistic well-being.