SDGs: Hunger, Health and Education

Diana Guevara Duque

School children in Colombia

School children in Florida (Valle), in Colombia – Ministerio de Educación via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned in the Zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda released on June 1st, the SDGs and the targets have to be considered integrated and indivisible, global in nature and universally applicable. Additionally, people are the centre of sustainable development, and that is reflected in the way the SDGs are proposed.

For instance, goal 2, which looks at ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture, has a clear focus on people. Comparing it to the MDGs, it is clearly in line with goal 1 of eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, target 1.C of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. According to UN’s official data, this target has been almost met as the proportion went down from 23,6% in 1990 to 14,3% in 2013, considering the MDG target was 11,8%. But about 842 million people are still estimated to be undernourished and more than 99 million children under age five are still undernourished and underweight. This fact explains the necessity to include the SDG, with eight specific targets that focus on the poor people in vulnerable situations, infants, children under five years of age, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons. Additionally, the targets also refer to agricultural productivity, the importance of ensuring sustainable food production systems, maintaining genetic diversity of seeds and agricultural research. The final two targets aim towards controlling trade restrictions and distortions in agricultural markets and he adoption of measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets.

Similarly, SDG 3 which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, continues the focus on people and is related to three different MDGs, number 4 of reduction of child mortality, number 5 that looked at the improvement of maternal health and number 6, the combat against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Regarding the target of reducing by two thirds the under-five mortality rate, measuring it in deaths per 1,000 live births, the MDG target was not achieved, as it looked to be 33, but by 2012 only 53 was attained, mainly due to the fact that the situation in the areas where most of the child deaths occur, that is sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, has not been controlled. It should also be noted that, even if the rate of under-five deaths overall declines, the proportion that occurs during the first month after birth is increasing. Correspondingly, even if maternal mortality fell by 45% since 1990, registering progress in all regions, the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions is still 14 times higher that in developed ones. Now, referring to MDG 6, it is clear that new HIV infections have been declining in most regions as it did by 44% between 2001 and 2012, and that there was a 42% decline in malaria mortality rates globally between 2000 and 2012. Sadly, an estimated 2,3 million people of all ages are newly infected and 1,6 million died form AID-related causes and just in 2012 malaria killed an estimated of 627,000 people. Therefore, it is more than clear that even if the actions taken by the international community towards healthy lies and promotion of well-being have improved the global situation, there is still a lot to be done, justifying the need of SDG 3.

Finally, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong opportunities for all is proposed as SDG 4. This is directly related to MDG 2 of achieving universal primary education by 2015. It has been measured in adjusted net enrolment rate for primary education, which was at 82% in 1999 and went up only 8% by 2012, still leaving 58 million out of school, but means that the enrolment in developing regions reached 90%. The targets set for SDG 4 try to resolve these issues. First, we need to ensure that all girls and boys complete free and equitable and quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, technical, vocational and tertiary education. Second, access should also be ensured for the vulnerable, which includes persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and children in vulnerable situations. Third, literacy and numeracy has to be ensured for youth and adults, men and women, elimination gender disparities in education. Fourth, all learners should acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including views on human rights, gender equality, culture of peace and global citizenship. The aforementioned figures, added to the fact that gender gaps in youth literacy are still worrying, the ten targets set for SDG 4 make complete sense.

It also needs to be taken into account the fact that the Means of Implementation proposed under each SDG will also be considered in depth at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13-16 July 2015. This reaffirms the importance that countries participate in all related and interconnected events.

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