Maggio 17, 2020

Covid and the Sustanaible Development Goals


The Covid pandemic is a health crisis of a magnitude which most of us have not witnessed before.

A pandemic which has glaringly exposed the fault lines in our healthcare systems and economies. Covid 19 has impacted people across the world, from all socio-economic backgrounds and across all racial and ethnic backgrounds. This has brought about the realisation that our health and survival require that everyone around us is also safe and healthy.

To put it very bluntly,  the Covid 19 pandemic is the biggest advocate for the need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as soon as possible.

Apart from goal 3, which deals with good health and well being, many of the other goals such as goal 1 to end extreme poverty, goal 3 to end hunger, goal 6 to ensure clean water and sanitation, goal 8 of providing decent employment and goal 11 of building safe and sustainable cities are all goals which need to be achieved in order to ensure that we are able to survive the current pandemic and are prepared for any such future occurrences.

The biggest and most obvious impact that Covid has had is on the health of the people which is the direct subject of goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) of the SDGs.

Even in developed nations, there was huge shortage of medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protection equipment, even in developed nations. Health systems across the world have been woefully underprepared for this crisis. Public health systems which are expected to cater to the needs of the majority of the population have been underfunded and understaffed. In developing nations, the number of health professionals required to the serve the population has been very low.

All these factors reflected the low priority of public health care in the agenda of governments. In the current scenario governments will need to work towards rectifying the current situation by focusing on healthcare.

‘Staying home and staying safe’ is the recommended strategy to tackle Covid is only possible when people have homes and when their homes are large enough for people to maintain a distance from their neighbours. For the millions of people who are homeless this is not a possibility.

Even if people have homes, but those homes are in slums, social distancing is not possible.

In slums, people live in close proximity to each other and share facilities such as toilets and kitchens. Slums do not have access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities. In such conditions, it is difficult to maintain social distancing, which leads to a faster spread of the disease. Slums which have always been known to be unhygienic and unhealthy places to live in need to be changed.

There needs to be a conscious effort made to ensure that the poorest in our cities live in better conditions and have access to safer water and sanitation facilities. The current crisis could be thought of as an opportunity to rethink city structures and try to build more humane and safe cities.

Another group of people who have been severely impacted by the lockdown of countries are daily wage earners. Many of whom also tend to live in slums. Daily wage earners earn low incomes, have minimal savings and low access to formal credit.  Ill health of the earning member of the family can push the family into extreme poverty. To combat Covid, many countries went it a lockdown, which meant that daily wage earners had no incomes.

It is estimated that in India alone one hundred million jobs have been lost many of whom are daily wage earners. The problem is further compounded by the fact that most developing countries do not have a social security system for their citizens. Hence, if a person loses her job, they have no other source of income. The need for food security and for building social security nets for the poorest populations of the country has never been more obvious.

The Covid pandemic has been devastating for the entire.

The disease has spread across countries, socio economic and ethnic groups and has highlighted the need for us to work together in tackling it.

This is the basic thought behind the formulation of the SDGs and hence the Covid pandemic needs to be looked as a wakeup call to achieve the SDGs as soon as possible.

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About Navika Harshe

Navika Harshe

Navika Harshe leads the health research cluster at A-id. She is an independent researcher who works on issues around health, policy and governance. She has a decade of expertise working in policy specifically monitoring and evaluation across Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the Lok Sabha (Parliament of India) and the Planning Commission of India. In her recent role as a Senior Research Manager at NEERMAN she led a cohort study which followed 440 pregnant women through their pregnancy in Uttar Pradesh, India. Navika was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Chicago where she received her Masters in Public Policy. She also holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Hyderabad. Her research interests include Health policy and its implementation, Economic development, Social and Public policy and Education policy.

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