As one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN at the September 2015 global summit held in New York, SDG 3 – better health care and general well-being has always been a major challenge, especially in the developing world.
Workers in various industries that are supposed to propel economic growth can only maximise their productivity if they are physically well and fit to comfortably handle their jobs’ magnitudes. The rest of the SDGs, which are all aimed at fuelling economic growth in the long run, thus somewhat depend on the implementation of this goal.
The UN’s target is to attain sustainable health care and general well-being for all by 2030, and here are the targets set with regard to the goal:
1. Reduce the number of maternal deaths to less than 70 in 100,000 live births.
2. Eradicate preventable newborn and under-five mortality, with each country to cut neonatal deaths to less than 12 per and under-five mortality to 25 per 1,000 live births.
3. Prevent hepatitis, communicable diseases and water-borne diseases and completely do away with tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria and other tropical diseases.
4. Reduce the rate of premature deaths from non-communicable infections by one third though prevention and treatment of the infections.
5. Reduce the abuse of substances such as alcohol and narcotic drugs by ensuring prevention and treatment centres are available and affordable.
6. Ensure access to reproductive and sexual health-care services to everyone.
7. Achieve global health coverage through access to safe, quality, effective and affordable vaccines and medicines for all, access to quality basic health care services, and financial risk protection.
8. Reduce by more than half the rates of illnesses and deaths from harmful chemicals and water, soil and air pollution and contamination.
9. Back the research and development of medicines and vaccines for both communicable and non-communicable ailments that affect developing nations, make essential vaccines and medicines available and at affordable prices in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.
10. Increase health financing and recruitment, training and retention of health workers in developing countries, more so the least developed ones and small island developing nations.
11. Boost the capacity of countries, especially those in developing regions, for early warning, reduction of risk and national and global health risk management.
SDG 3 – Substantial Improvement of Health Situation over Time
According to a report by the WHO, between 1970 and 2010, life expectancy in developing countries shot from 40 to 70.1 years while child mortality rate fell from 89 to 51 per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2011. This is partly due to improved health care services among various countries across the globe, something we should be proud of as the international community. But then, in spite of this progress, it’s sad to learn that so many people in developing countries are still falling victim of preventable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.
HIV Poses a Major Threat in Sub-Saharan Africa
In 2013, around 35 million people around the world were living with the HIV virus, 25 million of them from Sub-Saharan Africa. In the same year, there were 2.1 million new cases of the infection worldwide, 38% lower than the 2001 estimate. 240,000 of them were children and 250,000 adolescents, two thirds of which were girls.
The total number of adolescents living with the virus in the year was estimated at 2.1 million. As of 2014, HIV was the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in the world. Of the 13.6 million people taking antiretroviral therapy, only 6.4 million were women. According to a report by the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV is currently the leading cause of adolescent deaths in Africa and the second biggest cause of deaths of adolescents globally.
Adolescent girls (aged 10-19) and young women have been shown to make for the better part of the tally due to the violence, discrimination, exclusion and gender based inequalities which puts them at a higher risk of contracting the disease. In many cases, the bodily autonomy and privacy of most adolescent girls is not respected as most of them report having their first sexual experienced forced.
Malaria, on the other hand, is not as deadly as HIV but the number of deaths attached to it over the past three decades has made it a major point of concern too. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria has caused more than 6.2 million deaths with more than 60% of the total tally being children under five years in Sub-Saharan Africa. The global malaria deaths total has fallen by around 37% and the mortality rate by 58% over the past 15 years.
Tuberculosis was among the deadliest and most feared ailments during the 90’s, but since the turn of the century, cases of infection and death arising directly from it have fallen by a staggering 46%. 37 million lives were saved by prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions of the disease between 2000 and 2013. Over that period, the tuberculosis prevalence rate fell by 41% and the mortality rate by a remarkable 45%. Also, since 2004, TB-related deaths of HIV positive people has reduced by 36%.
Child Mortality and Health
On general child health, the number of children who die each day has reduced by 17,000 since 1990, but more than 6 million children below the age of five still die each year. Education has shown to play a role in the prevention of mortality rates as children of educated mothers, even those who didn’t proceed past primary school, have higher chances of living past the age of five than children of uneducated mothers.
Also, children from poor and extremely poor families are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthdays as their counterparts from wealthy families. There have been global endeavours to try and curb the situation, but still the proportion of child mortality in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa has been on a steady rise. A statistic shows that four fifths of all child deaths occur in these two regions.
Perhaps the most remarkable improvement, as far as global health is concerned, over the past two decades is maternal mortality, which has fallen by 50% since 1990. The prevalence in Northern Africa and some parts of Asia has fallen by two thirds, and this could be largely due to the increase in antenatal care from 65% in 1990 to 83% in 2012. Even with this increase though, little over 50 per cent of women in developing countries can access sufficient health care.
The gap between developing and developed nations with respect to this is perhaps the most unsightly facet of the maternity health subject as the proportion of women who do not survive childbirth relative to those who do is 14 times higher in developing countries than in developed ones.
The statistics are pretty cringe-worthy but, on the whole, we are making positive progress, considering the global health situation some decades back. Progress towards achieving this Sustainable Development Goal should be handled with the seriousness it calls for because it’s at the centre of whether or not we are going to achieve the rest of the goals.