There are less than ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030, and in the meantime, a global pandemic has come to question the already difficult result of achieving them.
Regarding SDG 3 (Health and well-being), and those others who are right with it, the pandemic has slowed down improvement processes and has accelerated changes that will foster progress and advances in the near future.
“In all parts of the world, births mark happy moments. However, every 11 seconds a birth is a family tragedy.” With these words, Henrietta Fore, director of UNICEF, alludes to the 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns who die annually at a long-awaited time and at the same time as vulnerable as childbirth.
It is true that the risk of death is substantially higher for women and children depending on where the delivery takes place. Maternal mortality levels are almost 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan Africa, and their children are 10 times more likely to die during the first month of life than other children in other parts of the planet.
In 2017, 4 mothers died in Spain. Every 100,000 live births while in Afghanistan, the maternal mortality rate was 637 that same year. And in Chad, 114 mothers died out of every 10,000 who gave birth.
That same number, 2.8 million, represents children and adolescents living with HIV in Africa, almost 9 out of 10 in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS estimates for 2020. Of these, only half receive HIV treatment. Life expectancy with retrovirals has nothing to do with that of those who are not treated.
As we grapple with these figures, the world has been impacted by a new global virus and has, in the last year and a half, turned to finding solutions to the multidimensional crisis of Covid-19.
This has caused worldwide almost 5 million deaths since its inception. Huge research efforts have marked record times and significant advances in science, which allow us to be in Spain today with an incidence of 49 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In addition to having a very low mortality rate.
Maternal mortality levels are nearly 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan Africa
Scientific efforts to contain a pandemic such as that of the coronavirus have been supported by efforts at the level of multilateral governance and cooperation. Without a systemic perspective on this crisis, the virus would be wreaking far more havoc than it is causing today.
Furthermore, the crisis has clearly highlighted the importance of public matters in health matters and has repositioned the battered position of health issues at the top of our political agendas. We have therefore shown that we are able to reposition priorities, generally when the threats are close.
But this crisis, which has had its main focus in Europe and America, will undoubtedly impact in the short term in those areas with the highest incidence of poverty, with weaker health systems and a lack of health professionals prepared. Those that are also adding this pandemic to other health emergencies such as HIV or malaria.
Despite the fact that covid-19 has made it possible to place health at the center of the global debate, this epidemic will make the path to achieving health even more difficult. 2030 Agenda. Different reports analyze its negative impact on almost all the SDGs in all regions of the world, including countries with the highest development rates. In the most vulnerable geographies, the impact will be even greater.
This crisis will impact those areas with the highest incidence of poverty and with weaker health systems
Leaving no one behind is increasingly in question and there is growing concern about a possible slowdown in the achievement of the SDGs or even a serious setback from the achievements already made.
In particular, in relation to SDG 1 (End of poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero hunger). This crisis can leave tens of millions of people in a situation of hunger and extreme poverty. The forecasts show this: a five-year setback in the millions of people living in extreme poverty (124 million) and a 5-year setback in the number of people who suffer from hunger (161 million).
In addition, forecasts of a reverse path in the fight against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in two decades threaten, in turn, reaching Goal 3, the one whose challenge is ensure a healthy life and promote well-being in all ages.
It is up to us that these 2.8 million children and adolescents with HIV add up to a smaller number each year and that progressively more children have access to diagnosis and treatment. It is up to us that the pre-pandemic priorities are not reduced. And also that not only our elders receive their third dose, that they reach other latitudes.
From this complex global scenario, we can get some positive readings. The pandemic has been a global learning in terms of preparing for health emergencies and in looking towards investment in fundamental public services such as health.
We must take advantage of the efforts that have been seen in global and multilateral governance to deepen some necessary reforms
The covid-19 crisis has also been a catalyst in the generalization of the use of technology in health matters: video consultations, tele consultations and algorithms that allow us to diagnose and monitor during the pandemic. Let us also use it for other purposes, in other diseases and to reduce distances.
Also to promote access to global health care and contribute to strengthening the weakest systems. We must take advantage of the efforts that have been seen in global and multilateral governance to deepen some necessary reforms and improve global management and coordination.
If there is anything we can learn from this devastating pandemic, it is that prevention systems, the strength of health systems, access to them, social justice and their approach, from a systemic perspective, are the pillars to emerge from a crisis like covid-19. But also to face current and future emergencies related to the health of many millions of people in the world.
*** Santiago de Torres Sanahuja is president of the Alliance for Solidarity.