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COVID-19 AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
7/7/2020 12:30:48 AM

Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. Namgyal

All across the globe, the COVID-19 is spreading human suffering, destabilizing the global economy and consuming the lives of billions of people around the globe. The pandemic has already caused unimaginable devastation and hardship, has brought our way of life to an almost complete halt. According to the Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the outbreak of this pandemic will have profound and lasting economic and social consequences in every corner of the globe. The deadly virus had exposed that gains made to address poverty, hunger, good health and well-being may face serious setbacks, unless the global community also urgently addresses the global environmental threats that have similar capacity to gravely undermine the systems that enable humanity and the planet to survive and thrive. The corona virus will have severe negative impacts on most of the United Nations mandated Sustainable Development Goals, according to a report that tracked the progress of 166 countries since 2015.
The SDGs are a set of 17 global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’. Prior to this crisis, the world was already falling behind in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’. Now with Covid-19, reaching these goals is an even greater challenge. In fact a report has revealed that the COVID-19 has negatively affected goals related to SDG1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3(good health), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). At the same time, the pandemic has brought immediate relief in goals related to SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13(Climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 5 (life on land). The report further adds that the gains will however be short lived and will be reduced leading to negative overall impacts on ecosystem.
Hungry mouths and deteriorating health conditions and other collateral damages will emerge due to the inter linkages between the SDGs. Poverty (SDG1) will take a hit and so will the quality of education (SDG4). On April 21, the United Nations projected that because of Covid-19, the number of people facing severe food insecurity worldwide could double to 265 million (UN, April 21). Millions of job losses have affected the SDG 8 which will result in pushing millions more into food insecurity thereby negatively impacting SDG2. At the beginning
of 2020, 135 million people around the world were already facing extreme hunger. Figure could rise to a staggering 265 million people by the end of this year. ‘In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries’ said David Beasley, Exe. Director of World Food Programme (WFP). The SDG 4 related to the quality of education has also been impacted due to this lockdown. With the educational institutes shut down for the last three months, the quality of education has been severely hampered. More than 260 million children were out of school in 2017 and 773 million adults two-thirds of whom are women remained illiterate in 2018. UNESCO points out that while digital technologies and distance learning strategies were deployed at record speeds to enable continued education for the estimated 1.5 billion children around the world affected by school closures, 40% of school children don’t have access to digital technologies, rising to 80% in sub Saharan Africa. The number is surely going to rise due to this pandemic.
The fate of SDG 6, ‘Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All’ becomes more critical. The SDG 6 has further six sub goals. The SDG 6.1 is to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. Washing hands is the first line of defense to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What if you don’t have enough clean water to meet the needs? Globally, three billion people do not have access to even basic hand-washing facilities at home. Nearly a billion people experience only partial access or regular shutoffs even when they do have piped water, making frequent hand-washing difficult or impossible. Lack of access to clean water affects vulnerability to disease and ill health. Hand washing and good hygiene practices unlock the benefits of water and sanitation services. SDG 6.2 aims to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. It calls for countries to end open defecation, to ensure that everyone has access to a basic toilet and to put in place systems for safe management of excreta. Better sanitation is considered to be one of the key elements in management of COVID-19 spread. This is an important precaution for preventing potential transmission of COVID-19.
The corona virus will impact the SDG 15 (Life on Land). Zoonotic diseases i. e the diseases passed from animals to humans such as COVID-19 will continue to rise, as the world continues to see unprecedented destruction of wild habitats by human activity. Degraded habitats may encourage more direct animal-human interaction, rapid evolutionary processes and diversification of diseases, as pathogens spread easily to livestock and humans. The SDG 14 relates to Life below water. The ecosystems that sustain and protect life are just as vital below
water as they are on land. The decline and degradation of natural marine, coastal and freshwater ecosystems, and their biodiversity, combined with increasing ocean warming, ocean acidification and widespread pollution, presents a crisis of just as serious concern. As waste often ends up in oceans and other sources of water, considering the sudden increase in toxic medical waste, including single-use plastic waste, due to COVID-19 will threaten the life below water. SDG 17 which aims at partnerships at the global level is itself under threat with most of the countries closing the borders.
The health, economic and social crises triggered by COVID-19 calls for increased international collaboration and solidarity to support the most vulnerable countries. Countries could cooperate on dissemination of the best practices rapidly, addressing hunger hotspots, ensuring social protection and promoting new drugs and vaccines. This year marks the start of the ‘Decade of Action’. The pandemic has put the nature in crisis. It is now threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global warming and pollution. Failure to act right now is to fail the entire humanity. It requires strong global partnerships to ensure food security for all, for sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste and at the same time a clear commitment to a world much better than pre Covid pandemic.
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