Pandemic eroding SDG attainment

12 July 2021 | Opinion

Windhoek • Celia Sofia Stephanus

With spiking Covid-19 cases and deaths being the order of the day in Namibia, the pandemic has added extra pressure to a nation already reeling.
According to UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, “the world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09. Each has hit human development hard, but overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year. Covid-19, with its triple hit to health, education and income, may change this trend.”
Covid is no longer just a threat to human lives, it now presents itself as a hurdle in the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs were created by the United Nations as the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone around the globe. Starting with the poorest first. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.
Addressing and besting the challenges that the poorest face-first, means that through their upliftment, we can uplift everyone. This speaks to the principle of; Leave No One Behind, which is at the very essence of the SDGs.
Now, over the years some impressive gains have been achieved, but the pandemic has eroded much of the progress achieved by developing countries, further pushing them into extreme poverty and deeper inequality. From this, we can deduce that the pandemic has magnified the need to redouble efforts in the fulfilment of the goals. It’s an urgent call to action.
One simple way in which we can improve Namibia’s situation is by embracing and administering vaccines to protect the population.
Zooming in on the current situation, it has become apparent that the Covid-19 vaccination is perhaps the best hope for ending the pandemic. No one has to be left behind, and to put it plainly, if we want to find the light at the end of this dark tunnel we the majority if not all the eligible population needs to get vaccinated.

Get vaccinated!
Currently, Namibia’s roll-out vaccination plan which is on a voluntary basis, is in place to assist in the recovery. So far close to 150 000 people have been vaccinated, although the targeted population to reach herd immunity is pegged around 1.5 million. Through a successful vaccination campaign, SDGs like the improvement of health are being covered also, as they typically have a ripple effect on the other SDGs. The improvement of health means a healthy society, which in turn makes it a productive society, hence the need to get vaccinated.
If we look at SDG 4, which champions quality education, we see that Namibia is starting to lose the ground gained. The virus has ripped through the school calendars forcing the postponement of classes and leaving the children to be home-schooled or dependent on remote and e-learning. Face-to-face teaching and learning for primary, secondary schools, and higher education institutions, including technical education providers, has been suspended as cases surged within the sector. This too can be managed, by simply encouraging citizens to get vaccinated, ultimately reducing the further spread of infections and schools can open up for face-to-face interactions.
While correcting the negative effects of Covid-19 on the economy and the gains of development eroded will take time - we have to start somewhere, and that starting point is to get vaccinated and adhere to COVID-19 protocols and regulations.
So far some of the efforts to boost SDGs like poverty eradication, have been published in the recently released maiden Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The index is set to serve as a tool to guide and measure policies - that have in mind the broad reduction of poverty such as the successive National Development Plans and the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
Furthermore, ongoing partnership and collaboration between the non-government agencies, government, and even the private sector will be a catalyst to Namibia’s development. As well as to the fulfilment of the 17 SDGs.
The return of normalcy is of paramount importance, as the virus is not only affecting the economy at large, but it is also delaying the implementation and attainment of SDGs.
Meanwhile, to achieve a balanced outcome in the vaccination roll-out campaign, it is crucial for other sector players whether public or private, to facilitate employees to join the with the vaccination exercise – as prevention is better than cure.
As much as the vaccination policy is a humanitarian policy, it is also an economic policy. Namibia needs successful vaccination, investments, and stability of the financial sector and through this, the attainment of SDGs is just a stone’s throw away. Ensuring that Leave No One Behind becomes a reality for Namibia and the region.
*Celia Sofia Stephanus is a Senior Technical Advisor of the SDG-I Namibia Project.

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