Starting 2015, all member states of the UN have been working on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon in the Agenda 2030. However, this year, the overall global progress has been tainted by the unprecedented health, economic, and social crisis – Covid-19 so much so that the virus is expected to wipe away gains in many areas accumulated over the years.
The world was already off track to end poverty by 2030 before coronavirus outbreak; the pandemic has not only slowed the pace further but also reversed the trend. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, Covid-19 effects are excruciating. Let’s look how Pakistan will fare under such risks.
Credit must be given where due; Pakistan’s performance against SDG-13 has been impressive and acknowledged worldwide. The country has achieved its climate action goal a decade ahead of time with focus on afforestation, biodiversity conservation, and investment in clean energy, and green projects. From its flagship projects such as 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Program, Clean Green Initiative, and establishment of 15 new national parks to its Green Stimulus Package to create green jobs to combat Covid-19 – all have been hailed internationally.
However, there is much more that the country needs to achieve on the remaining 16 SDGs. The response actions and the progress achieved so far, however, could highly be undermined by how the pandemic will pan out.
Prospects are not encouraging. Covid-19 impact is likely to push an estimated 71 million people back into extreme poverty in 2020 – this would be a first rise in global poverty levels since 1998. The report highlights that unemployment and underemployment due to the crisis will significantly affect 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – half of the global workforce. Covid-19 has also put over a billion slum dwellers at a severe risk. Not a good news for poverty levels and unemployment levels in Pakistan.
Then comes the impact of children and women. SDG Report 2020 points out that women and children are among those that bear the heaviest brunt. In a country where under 5 child mortality and maternal deaths are one of the highest in the world, and polio virus is still prevalent in many parts of the country, disruption in the health and vaccination services and limited access to diet and nutrition services will aggravate the situation further. Moreover, over 22 million children aged 5-16 are already out-of-school; disruption due to Covid-19 will make attaining SDG 4 even more challenging.