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COVID 19: A lesson for Kenya to implement Sustainable Development Goals by 2030

By Florence Syevuo | April 10th 2020

The current Covid-19 pandemic is a critical reminder to world leaders that holistic implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is urgent for all countries irrespective of their economic abilities or inabilities.

Evidently, we have now realised that pandemics are not reserved for the poor, less privileged or vulnerable groups; all human beings including the wealthy and powerful are candidates for the full wrath of diseases and pandemics. Covid-19 is much more than a health crisis with potential to devastate social, economic and political well-being of countries, continents and the entire globe.

Civil society organisations, development partners and philanthropist have continuously advocated for countries to prioritise, finance and implement human development trajectories as stipulated in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 3 states: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. However, recommendations based on this goal, targets and indicators have often landed on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, most developed countries continue to prioritise military spending and forfeit Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments. With the current crisis, how have a huge investment in military expenditures helped combat Covid-19 pandemic? Can sophisticated weapons prevent human, economic and social devastations? The high-tech assortment of weapons from all superpower nations are helpless in the face of the current pandemic.

SDG 3.3 states: By 2030, end the epidemics of Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases. Covid-19 pandemic directly relates to this SDG target. The world needs to urgently act now during this pandemic and be prepared for future pandemics. Leaders ought to prioritise investments with a keen focus on human development and overall preparedness against threats on the human race. Research into unknown bioagents should be prioritised and implemented. Access to proper specialised care, medication and health personnel should match the capacity of the world population in the event of a disastrous pandemic. Adequate resources must be allocated for all aspects of preparedness and response with the aim of strengthening existing systems rather than developing new ones.

In many African countries, development priorities are highly politicised with little tangible outputs in terms of number of health facilities, personnel and access to drugs proportionate to the population. African leaders often travel abroad for specialised care and access personalised services from private doctors working in the best facilities anywhere in the world.

Evidently, majority of African leaders are not committed to fully-fledged development of functional health systems and facilities for the ordinary citizens in their respective countries. This has exposed and created a huge burden in African countries with recorded Covid-19 cases. African health systems have been shaken in the past decades by HIV and Aids, Ebola and other diseases, yet no concrete learning and development changes have been implemented.

Essential drugs

Whilst more health facilities have been established in Kenya since the onset of devolution, there is little evidence to demonstrate the capacity of such facilities to deal with serious challenges such as Covid-19 and other chronic diseases. Common setbacks include inadequate health facilities per county, lack of proper staffing and free access to essential drugs. Health care is one of the most expensive expenditures for ordinary citizens and if not properly addressed the circle of poverty, disease and pre-mature deaths will continue to deepen.

Dear Kenyan leaders, this a wake-up call to shift priority towards achieving holistic development in all sectors for all citizens. We have an obligation during our lifetime to end poverty and to provide access to basic needs including healthcare, food security, water and sanitation, housing, education, and decent work and pay for all. The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed the existing and persistent inequalities in our societies. This pandemic will have the heaviest impact on the lives of people living in deprivation and social-economic difficulties.

The year 2020 is the launch of the Decade of Action to achieve SDGs. It’s time for the world to trade inequalities, corruption, and debilitated systems for sustainable development and leave no one behind.

Ms Syevuo is Country Coordinator, SDGs Kenya Forum.

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