Harare – The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021, made public on July 6, says the COVID-19 pandemic has rolled back progress towards meeting targets around the world.
In addition to the almost four million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, between 119 and 124 million people were pushed back into poverty and chronic hunger, and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs were lost, the report indicates.
“The pandemic has halted, or reversed, years, or even decades of development progress. Global extreme poverty rose for the first time since 1998”, said UN Under-Secretary-General Mr Liu Zhenmin at the report launch.
Disruptions to essential services have threatened years of progress in improving maternal and child health, immunisation coverage, and the spread of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Around 90 percent of countries report one or more significant disruptions to essential health services.
The report also indicates that the pandemic has exposed and intensified inequalities within and between countries.
According to the UN as of 17 June, around 68 COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered for every 100 people in Europe and Northern America, compared with less than two per 100 in Africa south of the Sahara.
In addition, millions of children risk never returning to school; while rising numbers have been forced into child marriage and child labour.
With trillions in tourist income lost to shutdowns, the collapse of international tourism has disproportionally impacted struggling developing states.
“The poorest and most vulnerable continue to be at greater risk of becoming infected by the virus and have borne the brunt of the economic fallout”, said Mr Liu.
While an economic recovery is under way, growth is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2022/2023.
“This report paints a worrying picture regarding the state of the SDGs. Yet, it also highlights stories of resilience, adaptability and innovation during the crisis, which indicate a brighter future is possible”, underscored Mr Liu.
“We are at a critical juncture in human history. The decisions and actions we take today will have momentous consequences for future generations. Lessons learned from the pandemic will help us rise to current and future challenges.”