Geneva: The Covid-19 pandemic is causing significant loss of
life, disrupting livelihoods, and threatening the recent advances in health and
progress towards the global development goals, the 2020 World Health Statistics
published by the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted.
“The good news is that people around the world are living
longer and healthier lives. The bad news is the rate of progress is too slow to
meet the Sustainable Development Goals and will be further thrown off track by
Covid-19,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)
of 2015 are a set of 17 consolidated global development targets, including poverty
eradication, aimed to be attained by 2030.
WHO’s World Health Statistics — an annual check-up on the
world’s health — reports progress against a series of key health and health
service indicators, revealing some important lessons in terms of progress made
towards the Sustainable Development Goals and gaps to fill.
As per the report, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy
have increased, but unequally. The biggest gains were registered in low-income
countries, which saw life expectancy rise 21 per cent or 11 years between 2000
and 2016 (as against an increase of 4 per cent or 3 years in higher income
The lower income countries made advancements in prevention
and treatment of deadly diseases like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis and also in
providing better maternal and child healthcare. But the progress is slow in a
number of areas. Immunization coverage has barely increased in recent years,
and there are fears malaria gains may be reversed. There is an overall shortage
of services within and outside the health system to prevent and treat
noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung
disease, and stroke.
The inability to pay for healthcare is another major
challenge for many. On current trends, the WHO estimates that in 2020,
approximately 1 billion people (almost 13 per cent of the global population)
will be spending at least 10% of their household budgets on health care. The
majority of these people live in lower middle-income countries.
“The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the need to protect people
from health emergencies, as well as to promote universal health coverage and
healthier populations to keep people from needing health services through multi-sectoral
interventions like improving basic hygiene and sanitation,” said Dr Samira
Asma, Assistant Director General at WHO.
“The message from this report is clear: as the world battles the most serious pandemic in 100 years, just a decade away from the SDG deadline, we must act together to strengthen primary health care and focus on the most vulnerable among us in order to eliminate the gross inequalities that dictate who lives a long, healthy life and who doesn’t,” added Asma. “We will only succeed in doing this by helping countries to improve their data and health information systems.”