Nearly four million people have died from COVID-19. Some of the gains and positive progress in working towards sustainable development goals are hindered and may even be reversed. Poverty has risen due to loss of employment and closure of businesses. Even if not many people have fallen below extreme poverty, a great majority of people have seen their real incomes and wages decline. Hence, the intensity of poverty and vulnerability has risen.
Those who have been able to withstand the crisis are those with enough savings, wealth and assets. Thus, inequality is also expected to rise between people of different classes within the country and between developing and developed countries. It is because developing countries with weakly funded governments having low tax base and depending on aid are facing trouble in servicing their internal and external debt and in catering to the requirements of large number of people who require support.
Furthermore, a lot of children have gone out of school. Women, in particular have faced more problems in losing jobs and access to education. In regions where women and children depended on public transport in going to work or to schools, they have been badly affected by the lockdowns and closure of public transport.
Momentarily, carbon emissions declined during the lockdowns, but environmental resources are pressurized in other ways. There is increased use of paper and plastics in packaging. Use of personal vehicles over public transport is resulting in increased carbon use per person in travelling distance alone as compared to mass transit.
Finally, a lot of resources budgeted for COVID-19 relief and procurement of vaccines are now not available for meeting several SDGs. Therefore, developing countries will face more problems going forward.
It is important that debt relief and debt concessions are afforded to them so that their fiscal bleeding does not compromise work and progress on SDGs. As focus shifts to growth to regenerate employment for those who lost employment after the emergence of COVID-19, it is pertinent to not lose focus of SDGs.