How COVID-19 is likely to affect the SDGs

How the outbreak of COVID-19 is likely to affect the overall SDG’s.

The year 2020, is a special year in the implementation of Agenda 2030, it’s the year we begin the Decade of Action, the last 10 years of Agenda 2063 aimed at accelerating and fast-tracking the implementation of SDGs worldwide. All these ambitions to achieve SDGs are without a contingency plan for something of the magnitude of the COVID 19, which is affecting everyone globally, inflicting devastating losses to human life, businesses and our existence generally.

As late as February this year we were in Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe for the 6th edition of the Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development, taking a look at how Africa is progressing in the implementation of both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, and how we can accelerate implementation in the last 10 years of agenda 2030. Tanzania was making commendable progress in accountability for SDGs, doing our first and successful National Voluntary Review in 2019

Now, everything has almost come into a complete halt. The world’s focus is now shifted on how to first slow down the pandemic from causing more devastating loss and then adapting to new ways of doing things, but the focus is on saving lives first.


What sectors of SDG’s are likely to be hit most?

So far reports indicate declines almost in every sector, the lockdowns are affecting productivity, businesses are being closed down, unemployment rates are spiking up globally. At this point it’s I won’t give a sector-specific analysis,  but I would like to focus on how some of the SDGs are likely to be affected by the Covid19 Crisis’. This being a health crisis, I am tempted to say SDG3(Health & WellBeing) is suffering the most right now, but with the nature of SDGs slow progress in one goal could potentially affect progress of all other 16 goals. The following analysis will showcase how different SDGs are likely to be affected and how it’s all connected:

Goal 1 and 2 (No poverty and Zero hunger) which due to loss of income, will increase the numbers of those living below the poverty line while food production and distribution could be disrupted impacting nutrition among the vulnerable.

Goal No 3, Good health and Well-being will probably be the most affected, as it states well being, and as of this date, more than 200k deaths are reported worldwide, that no one was prepared for three months ago.

Goal 4 on Quality Education is also reported to have been affected, especially among marginalized communities who cannot access online learning, therefore, leaving some students behind, there are reports that Female Genital Mutilation, child labour and early marriage are on the rise in some areas even in Tanzania, schools being closed gives an opportunity for parents to conduct such acts.

Goal no 5 Gender Equality, reports form UNFPA indicate an increased risk of gender-based violence, especially on women with violent partners and will most likely cause physical and emotional effects on women which will amount to secondary effects of COVID-19.

Goal no 8 Decent Work; Economic activities are being suspended, lower-income, unemployment rates are surging globally and cut in pay for some industries this also affects goal 10, there is a risk of the inequality gap widening as an aftermath of COVID-19.

Goal 16, on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, countries with conflicts will struggle to collectively agree to work in fighting COVID-19 which will lead to even more devastating losses and we are also witnessing what is happening in other countries such as South Africa, cases of police brutality and major violations of human rights. The situation could also be a potential breeding ground for corruption, and misappropriation of funds dedicated to fighting the pandemic.

SDG  17 Partnership for the Goals, each country is focusing on fighting the pandemic at home first, with the anticipated historic economic downturn as an aftermath, a shift in priorities may happen especially in donor countries that would affect how developing countries progress. Also a negative effect on globalization might happen because of how COVID-19 spread across the world.

A similar analysis can be made for all other SDGs, this is not exhaustive.


What about youth? 

As much as reports indicate that young people have mild fatality risks due to COVID-19,  young people are likely to be the most affected by the aftermath of this pandemic economically than other groups, being the largest group. Several factors work against this demographic, in 2019 ILO estimated youth unemployment rate to be at 12% that’s a big number already, with COVID-19 affecting the global economy overall, factories being shut down, businesses collapsing and we expect the number to be rising for youth unemployment in the coming months.

Small businesses run by young people will be the most affected as well, they already have a hard time securing capital when the world is not going through an expected historical economic recession. And in most corporations and organisations youth are most likely to be in lower positions that are vulnerable to unpaid leave or retrenchment. Progress on SDG 8 on Decent work is affected by this largely.

There needs to be special stimulus packages designed to rescue small businesses run by young people. I remain hopeful in the resilience that comes from being young, and the ability for young people to innovate and adapt. Therefore despite the trauma that comes with a global pandemic, there are also new opportunities that come with it, such as a surge in e-commerce, and since life will not go back to what it was at a hundred percent, it’s a great opportunity to innovate for what will be our new normal, living with COVID-19 hanging in the air.


What should be done especially in developing countries like Tanzania?

At this time, it’s clear that none of us is safe until all of us are safe, therefore it is a collective responsibility as much as it is personal to stay safe and keep the whole community safe. In most developing countries, the biggest problem is the flow of information, timely and accurate data is one of our biggest challenges. By making the correct information about COVID-19 available timely and accessible to all it will help the general public to take the situation more seriously, and take precaution, in turn, saving more lives. Also, this will prevent the general public from being fed with misinformation.

There also needs to be an increased sense of urgency in our response and interventions. We need to be strategic in creating solutions that work for us as a country, and do this fast, with a united front, private sector, civil society, development partners, scientists, the medical community and the government working together to flatten the curve and to assist those affected by the wake of the pandemic. This is the spirit of the SDGs, to make sure that no one is left behind even in the toughest of times.


In the wake of COVID-19, what is your call/ Advice to the government, the youth, CSO’s and other stakeholders

It’s not time to work in silos or in a divide. Let’s work together in co-creation to find solutions for now and for the future, it’s more likely than not things will not go back to normal 100% for many months from now until a permanent solution is found whether a vaccine or some kind of cure.  This doesn’t mean we stop and wait, we need to be resilient, we are being tested in our ability to push through in times of adversity, our other problems did not go away, there are still thousands of girls succumbing to child marriage, unemployment rates for youth are still high, quality education is still a challenge etc the list is endless and we have to keep working to solve all this while we are also being aggressive and resilient in combating COVID-19 in our country. Whether it’s the government, CSO, Private sector, DPs and other groups we should all have a common goal and responsibility that is to create a safer and better Tanzania, for us and generations to come. This is a Decade of Action for the SDGs, and it calls for aggressive measures to make sure we end poverty by 2030, it’s exactly what we should be doing, collectively.


What plans & strategies should be put in place to address this COVID 19?

It’s not a one size fits all situation, we need to act urgently and strategically, keeping in mind our socio-economic situation as a country, we can borrow lessons from countries that are in the same settings as us. But our first and foremost priority as a country should be to flatten the curve, ensure no more new infections, no more deaths. This can only be achieved by strengthening our ability in responding to COVID-19,  starting firstly by ensuring that our doctors, nurses and all hospital staff are all protected so that they can take care of those who are sick properly. Make testing available widely, and results immediately, and improvements in patient care in the quarantine centres.

Most importantly I want to stress on the importance of an informed public when we are all correctly informed about the implication of a full-blown pandemic in the country, we are able to make the right decisions to keep ourselves and others safe and following official directives from credible sources and medical professionals.