– The Corona-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented and relentless impact on the world in areas beyond just health. The World Bank’s latest report on world poverty raises concerns about the severity of the pandemic’s impact on efforts to alleviate poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2).
We also have evidence that other facets of development, in addition to poverty and hunger, are (and will continue to be) negatively affected by the pandemic which is once again sweeping through populations around the world, putting definitively endangering the overall development program.
In 2015, the United Nations ambitiously adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, which cover a range of development areas in which global and concerted action to ensure progress was seen as imperative.
We have seen some of these areas gain more attention since the SDGs were established, but even before the goals were set, the world was moving slowly but surely in the right direction in areas like poverty.
World Bank reports show that extreme global poverty declined by 1% per year between 1990 and 2015, but the decline slowed after 2015. The World Bank attributes part of the slowdown to the increase in violent conflict in the Middle East and the North. Africa after 2015 and climate change but with the advent of the pandemic in 2020, evidence indicates that this progress is not only slowed down and eroded, but in some cases wiped out.
Extreme poverty between 2019-2020 is now greater than the entire period in which the World Bank began to monitor poverty consistently, and new challenges are emerging that require concerted efforts and changes in policies and programs. .
The data indicate that the poorest are the most affected by Covid, which is perhaps not a surprise, but what is new is the observation that populations relatively spared from poverty earlier, suffer from disproportionately post-Covid.
The WB report shows that â€œthe new poorâ€ are often more urban and educated and more likely to be engaged in informal services and manufacturing and less in agriculture. Additionally, Covid-19 disproportionately affects middle-income countries and countries in conflict. These developments add to the complexity of tackling the pandemic and threaten progress in achieving the SDGs goals as a whole.
The areas covered by the SDGs have always been recognized as broad and ambitious but imperative. Their broad reach meant that a global push on key areas affecting development could in fact create synergy and momentum for progress.
This, of course, suggests that slowing progress towards one of these goals could have a negative impact on the other goals as well. Since the pandemic, resources have been diverted from some of the SDGs more than others and targets previously suffering due to limited resource allocation now face further erosion of resources and attention.
It is clear that the range of SDGs that will be negatively impacted will go beyond SDG Poverty1, SDG 3 on Health and SDG2 on Hunger. Emerging data already indicates the negative impact of the pandemic on education (SDG 4), the reduction of inequalities (SDG 10) and gender inequalities (SDG 5) in particular.
With the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight, our actions to counter the trend must recognize that all of the SDGs goals, and sustainable development as a whole, are under threat.
The World Bank report argues that global coordination and cooperation in terms of solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic is imperative, but that the development of action plans that take into account the range of development areas and their interconnections is just as important.
The response to the pandemic must take into consideration the linkages between the different elements of development, embodied in the overall SDG agenda, and how they impact on each other, and must ensure continued and necessary investment and attention. to these elements, if we are to fight effectively against the fallout from the pandemic.
Dr Purnima Mane is an internationally recognized expert on gender, population and development, and public health who has dedicated her career to advocating on population and development issues and working on sexual and reproductive health. Most recently, Ms. Mane was President and CEO of Pathfinder International, prior to which she was Deputy Executive Director (Program) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Under-Secretary-General (ASG). She has held senior positions in several international organizations such as UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Population Council.