“Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages” (“Health”) is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) introduced by the United Nations in 2015. Reducing maternal mortality, fighting communicable diseases, preventing and treating substance abuse, ensuring universal access to reproductive care, provision of awareness regarding family planning, and achieving universal health coverage are some aims according to their 2030 Agenda. However, in the status quo the COVID-19 pandemic has quite clearly challenged and decelerated the progress of these goals despite the measures implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO) alongside other subsidiaries to overcome the health crisis.
Major progress had been made to improve health and wellbeing worldwide before the pandemic struck. For instance, “maternal and child mortality rates have reduced, life expectancy continues to increase globally, and the fight against some infectious diseases has made steady progress.” In addition, when one considers the progress of health security in the context of the ongoing pandemic, 5.92B doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide and 31.7% of the global population have been fully vaccinated by September 2021. As such, while not as rapid, progress is being made.
However, progress in eradicating diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis on the other hand has stalled. Besides, the lack of trained health workers or routine interventions, such as immunizations, has been the cause of the death of many people around the world. Moreover, it is estimated that at least half the world’s population still exists without proper access to essential health services, especially due to financial hardships. Besides, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries haven’t been as successful in curbing the unfavourable effects of the pandemic despite the nation’s economic and financial capabilities. Thus, concerted efforts are necessary for us to progress in achieving universal health coverage and sustainable financing for health; addressing the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and mental health; and tackling antimicrobial resistance and environmental factors contributing to ill health, such as air pollution, water pollution, and the lack of safely managed sanitation worldwide.
Sri Lanka’s position
The Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka has a strong surveillance system that monitors, identifies, and manages potential public health risks. This has aided in making massive progress in improving the healthcare of the country and is achieving the targets outlined by the third SDG. For instance, Sri Lanka has the lowest maternal mortality rate in South Asia with a maternal mortality ratio of 36 per 1,000 live births in 2017 and a neonatal mortality rate of four deaths per 1,000 live births. Furthermore, public healthcare midwives have supplemented the lack of qualified medical workers and they continue providing family planning, sex education, and parental care for newlywed families. Besides, they monitor the health and development of new-borns while providing vaccines and other services free of charge. Moreover, Sri Lanka has also been incredibly successful in the control and elimination of communicable diseases such as HIV and Syphilis and was recognized by the UNIDAS in 2019 for its progress. In addition, during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Sri Lanka was one of the few countries to get ahead of the pandemic, due to its prompt adaptation of WHO guidelines. Furthermore, by September 2021, the country has administered 24.7M doses of vaccine and has fully vaccinated 50.3% of its population against COVID-19.
Nonetheless, there are still certain hurdles to overcome in order to achieve the targets set out by the third SDG by 2030. For instance, there is an increase in non-communicable diseases, especially among the ageing population. The nation hasn’t been very successful in containing the latest outbreak of COVID-19 either which eventually resulted in a grand total of 504,000 cases and 12,125 deaths by September 2021.
Global health is in regress albeit the remarkable progress made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, it is indispensable to follow the health guidelines and other strategic measures recommended by the WHO if we are to achieve the third Sustainable Development Goal – good health and well-being, by 2030.
– Rtr. Piyumini Buddhika
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