Analysis Commentary

Effects of COVID-19 on the Sustainable Development Goals

Since COVID-19 broke out from Wuhan in China earlier this year, it has drastically changed the way the world interacts.

Since COVID-19 broke out from Wuhan-China early this year, it has crossed over to almost 190 countries and has become a global nightmare. It has drastically changed the way we interact and,. according to World Meters, has infected over 3 million people and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. 

To flatten the curve, countries around the world adopted different measures such as enforcing full lockdowns, imposing travel restrictions and completely sealing their borders. As a result of these measures, public and private businesses are going out of business, stocks are barely doing well, people are out of jobs, the global economy is taking a nosedive. Ultimately, recession is looming. COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of world’s policies and arrangements, chief among them is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

In 2015, the United Nations followed up the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and initiated a 17-goal agenda; a fresh global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. These goals are interwoven so much that an action or inaction in one will affect the outcome of the others. Since inception, efforts have been made such as; series of collaborations among different local and international NGOs, governments, businesses and individuals to ensure the timely success of SDGs. 

The advent of the present global pandemic has made the prospect of achieving the SDGs by the said time an uncertainty. The SDGs are getting overwhelmed by the persistence of the novel coronavirus. 

Through the SDG 3 (Global Health and Well-being), major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people around the world. Maternal and child mortality rates have been reduced, life expectancy continues to increase globally, and the fight against some infectious diseases has made steady progress. However, COVID-19 is becoming overwhelming and somewhat undoing the previous achievements of the goal.

Few days ago, the United Nations hinted that over 195 million jobs will be lost. African Union also reported that about 20 million jobs are at risk in Africa as the continent’s economy is projected to shrink this year due to the impact of the pandemic. With these projections, the rate of unemployment, poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa will become more devastating. This will counter the progress made in SDG 1 (Zero Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger and Food Security) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and may drag the process 5 years backward.

Before COVID-19, more than one third of working people in sub-Saharan Africa still live in extreme poverty since they only earn below $1.90 a day and the number of undernourished people increased from 195 million in 2014 to 237 million in 2017. Nigeria particularly has 48% (96 million people) of its population living in extreme poverty. In 2019, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nation (FAO), Nigeria is one of the 34 African countries depending on external food aid, and presently on a journey of two months total lockdown. 

Globally, COVID-19 has gravely affected education, over 1.25 billion students across the world are affected, especially in Africa where formal education mostly requires physical contact and little or no effort is made towards adopting educational technology. China, Italy and some other developed countries have already adopted full online distance learning to ensure that their education systems are not completely sidelined at this time. Poor internet connectivity, high costs and frequent power interruptions are serious challenges facing internet education in Africa. Education has been on halt during this period. This is a major setback to SDG 4 (Quality Education) which inadvertently affects SDG 5 (Gender Equality) since quality education for all is one of the major tools to combating gender inequality.  

COVID-19 is blurring and minimizing the idea of building resilient infrastructures, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation according to SDG 9. Since January, the only major infrastructures built are those that will help in fighting the pandemic. The pandemic is a huge threat to industrialization since almost all the facets of industries around the world have shut down in great numbers. 

The impact of COVID-19 on the SDGs is immense; the world is on the defensive. If the pandemic continues to extend, the world will be ushered into a great recession. The gains of the Sustainable Development Goals could be completely eroded by the impact of COVID-19. If measures like bailout funds for small businesses and food aids for low income homes are not properly granted, COVID-19 will severely undermine the prospects for achieving SDGs 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2030. 

However, while COVID-19 has had devastating impacts around the globe, it has also led to a decrease in air pollution. Among all the SDGs, the goals that are aimed at achieving sustainable climate condition and healthy ecosystem such as goal 6 (Clean Water Sanitation), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate change), 14 (Life below Water), and 15 (Life on Land) have been positively impacted by COVID-19. Since humans are locked away with all our reckless toxicity towards the earth, the earth has begun to flourish. 

In a joint press release, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and President of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said that “what we cannot afford to do, even in this crucial time, is shift resources away from crucial SDG actions. The response to the pandemic cannot be de-linked from the SDGs.” Even though the pandemic has wreaked havoc on humanity and has disrupted our global incentives to make the world a better place, the SDGs still hold important positions in our recovery from the damage. We must be more steadfast and resilient towards the implementation of the SDGs. 

Damilare Dosunmu

Dosunmu is a freelance content writer and copywriter. He's passionate about digital marketing and education. He's an SDG 1, 2, 3 and 5 advocate. He's a political satirist at Punocracy. He runs Tarykh's Letter, a monthly newsletter where he writes about music, culture & identity, food he's never tasted before and travels about places he's been in his dreams. He tweets @tarykuh and yes, he's never won any award before.

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