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COVID-19 and the SDG’s — April 27th Update

Written by Brady Press

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all countries and income levels, causing a critical need for immediate response across the global community. But as immediate needs are addressed, conversations around longer-term impact are arising, specifically on the effect of the pandemic on progress toward achieving the Global Agenda by 2030.

Each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will be affected by this crisis whether directly as a result of health, economic, and policy challenges, or indirectly through redirected resources, disruptions to infrastructure, or other secondary hurdles.

Source: Center for Economic and Social Rights

Below is a roundup of key stories from this past week, which highlight how specific SDGs are being affected. For more of our COVID-19 and the SDGs coverage to date, visit our Medium page.

Low-Income Countries and Vulnerable Groups Brace for COVID-19

To date, COVID-19 has primarily spread in developed countries such as China, the United States, Italy and the UK. However, the virus has started to reach countries with weaker healthcare systems — causing greater global concern, as expressed by a United Nations News article:

“High income and low-income countries are facing this crisis simultaneously, an unprecedented situation in modern times. They are competing for the same supplies as global delivery chains break down and as the shortage of medical equipment and supplies worsens. This calls for innovative and local solutions where possible.”

In response, the UN is currently working with governments in less-developed countries to help them prepare for COVID-19, such as in Bangladesh — one of the most densely populated countries in the world — which has also seen swift response from local NGOs.

Acknowledging the need for increased efforts in more vulnerable countries and communities within them, the UN issued a press release last Friday detailing the current work of humanitarian aid organizations and calling on donors to continue to support global humanitarian response.

Good Health and Wellbeing — SDG 3

UNICEF announced that COVID-19 is interfering with the distribution of vaccinations for non-COVID-19 diseases such as measles, diphtheria and polio, thus putting the lives of millions of children at risk. Drawing attention to this issue, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced that:

“Children missing out now on vaccines must not go their whole lives without protection from disease…the legacy of COVID-19 must not include the global resurgence of other killers like measles and polio.”

Gender Equality — SDG 5

Women and girls still face vast inequalities globally, which have been further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is having greater negative effects on the female population, including the rise in violence against women. Following the UN Secretary General’s call to “put women and girls at the center of efforts to recover from COVID-19,” women leaders across governmental, civil society and philanthropic sectors gathered for a virtual roundtable on April 20th.

The roundtable’s purpose was to “identify and prioritize policy measures that facilitate a more gender-inclusive recovery path.” The following were identified as key action areas for the future of gender equality: health care systems and care work; economic impact; gender-based violence; and women, peace and security and humanitarian aid.

Slavica Vasić , who works with the EU-UN Women regional program working to end violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey, shed light on the heightened challenges facing Roma women and girls, and painted a picture of gender equality post-COVID-19, in an interview with UN Women:

“We know that discrimination and violence against women, especially women from vulnerable groups, will increase, and that we will have to work much harder than before to improve women’s lives. Prior to this crisis it was bad, but now it will be even worse.”

Climate Change — SDG 13

Last week, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published a report — Global Renewables Outlook: Energy Transformation 2050 — which discusses decarbonization options for various sectors to reach zero emissions. The report calls for the integration of sustainability-focused policies in stimulus and recovery packages being formed for COVID-19 response.

Quality Education-SDG 4

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and UNICEF appealed for additional funding to support education for refugee children in Greece. The appeal follows the release of a report by Theirworld, a key funder of refugee education programs, which shows that the region’s funding will run out in June.

Demonstrating the need for continued education programs, Theirworld estimates that less than a third of refugee children on the Greek islands were getting any schooling in 2019, and that the impact of COVID-19 threatens to lower these numbers.

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions — SDG 16

Focus on COVID-19 response, closures and calls for quarantine/social distancing measures has put conflict-ridden countries in worse situations by delaying peacekeeping work and in some cases, allowing for heightened violence, as is the case in Sudan.

With the help of the UN, Sudan was undergoing a peace process which has been put on hold due to COVID-19. The delay has “severely impacted the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), rendering ‘impractical’ an effective exit by 31 October.”

According to Rosemary DiCarlo, the Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, there is a “dire humanitarian situation in Sudan and the urgent need for support.” The number of Sudanese people in need of humanitarian aid already increased from 8 million to 9.3 million by the end of 2019, and the economic crisis in the country will only worsen with the impact of COVID-19.

Upcoming Data Event

On Wednesday of this week, the UN World Data Forum is hosting a free-webinar — “Data In the Fight Against COVID-19.”

The webinar will cover experiences from three entities providing data support on the front lines of COVID-19 and illustrate challenges and “lessons learned” to better the data collection during response to the crisis.

Brady Press is an Associate Director at Changing Our World, where she specializes in building strategic corporate citizenship programs. She is a consultant to SDGCounting and StartingUpGood, and is currently researching how COVID-19 is affecting the Sustainable Development Goals.

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