Other SDGs risk being overshadowed by COVID-19

WHEN the first wave of COVID-19  wreaked havoc around the world, many countries were hopeful that this pandemic would weaken and subside with time.

Peter Makwanya

The second wave became even more ruthless, forcing many countries to divert attention from core businesses. With the COVID-19  death toll increasing on a daily basis, focus is now seriously on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 (ensure health lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) rendering the other 16 goals as good as forgotten.

In order to turn these goals into actively shared objectives for all and create a more sustainable world by 2030, nations have to adopt an integrated approach in tackling the SDGs. Instead, many nations are investing more resources in curbing COVID-19. Although SGDs are designed to operate in an integrated manner, an analysis of each one and a combination of them is made in this discussion to find out how the achievement of every goal has been threatened with the resurgence of COVID-19.

SDGs 1 and 2 combined (end poverty and hunger) are accelerating due to lockdowns. Citizens have very little space to contribute to food security, fight poverty and hunger as movement is restricted. As such, agricultural production faces a significant drop due to these restrictions. Food insecurity is likely to be compounded, rendering many nations unable to feed their people and fight malnutrition-related diseases and deaths.

SDG 12 (ensure sustainable consumption and food production and quantities), largely depends on food security which is not usually attainable in a restrictive and limiting environment such as that obtaining under the COVID-19 pandemic.

SDG 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education) has already suffered more than the other goals. In some countries, learning has been suspended while in others, massive dropouts and closure of schools were witnessed.

Education is virtually at a standstill with only the well-resourced communities adopting online learning which has proved unsustainable.

In crisis times, families would rather buy food than buy data bundles for use in online learning.

While the world observed the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence recently, SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), COVID-19 has complicated and threatened the conducive atmosphere, will and conviction. Spending more time at home, under the same conditions with limited movement has contributed to an increase in cases of violence  and conflicts in families.

Women’s access to sexual and reproductive healthcare information and education is under threat because of lack of secrecy. SDG 6 (sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) is closely linked to goal number 5, where access to water and sanitation is not only a requirement, but a women’s right too. In cases where women are supposed to travel long distances to fetch water, COVID-19 restrictions don’t allow them, leading to deterioration in health and sanitation.

SDG 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), many households still live in energy-poverty, erratic and poor power supplies are a common feature in many countries.

Many households in developing countries still depend on wood, coal or charcoal energy. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, women can no longer travel to forests frequently to fetch firewood. Some families no longer afford the cost of electricity because the breadwinner was laid off from work or due to lack of income as a result of lockdown restrictions.

SDG 8 (promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all), COVID-19 has impacted hard on the job market and economies, especially of developing countries. Many countries are reeling from high unemployment rates while during these times of COVID-19, only essential service providers who are allowed to operate, rendering the majority of people jobless.

These are also the countries which normally fund development work in developing countries and for these reasons, funding would be reduced or stopped. While developing countries were synonymous with high employment rates, in developed countries, COVID-19 is driving unemployment rates up as well, hence, it has been job losses everywhere.

SDG 9 (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation)  works in combination with SDG 8 as the success or state of the economy determines growth.

SDG 10 (reducing inequalities within and among countries). As the rich countries continue to pollute more,  poor countries suffer the brunt of these emissions because of lack of capacity to counter climate shocks. COVID-19 has also enabled rich countries to pollute more while it also avails fertile ground for developing countries to engage in human rights abuses through the guise of enforcing COVID-19 regulations.

SDG 11 (making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable): COVID-19 has made this unattainable as life has become tough in cities due to escalating prices, rates and bills. Many urban settlements have become overcrowded due to restricted movement as a result of the pandemic.

Resilience has just become a buzzword, as it is difficult to realise in the absence of sustainable solutions and human preparedness. For these reasons, life has become unsafe and unsustainable than never before.

SDG 13 (taking action to combat climate change and its impacts). This is one of the most vital goals to accomplish as the success of all other SDGs depends on the appropriate action, management and resilience to climate change impacts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes were focused on climate change, but now focus has been shifted to the pandemic.

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