The effects of COVID-19 are more disastrous than we can ever imagine, it has very devastating effects on the economy and lives of the people all over the world.
It is even more overwhelming on developing countries most especially African countries. COVID-19 has stretched and posed a major challenge to health systems, even the most robust health systems in very advanced nations were at a point struggling with the influx of reported cases.
The disruption is so much that it has affected our way of life as we go about our normal duties in our various communities and societies. Unforeseen occurrences of this magnitude may unsettle structures and all gains established to promote and attain sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The COVID-19 outbreak demonstrates how vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis we are and how ill-prepared the health sector is. Covid-19 calls for a capacity assessment and revamp of the public health system. Governments must substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce.
COVID-19 has directly caused economic slowdowns and downturns, with significant impact on unemployment and underemployment for the informal workers (SDG 1 & 2). COVID-19 lockdown did affect food systems through impacting agricultural production and food supply. It is indirectly affecting food systems through decreasing the capacity to distribute food, as well as reducing the power of purchasing (SDG 2).
It is vital to address the impacts of COVID-19 on food crises (SDG 1 & 2) and other related concerns that has affected the global goals. Immediate steps including stabilizing incomes and access to food, ensuring continuity of food supply chain must be addressed.
This will guarantee livelihood for the most vulnerable populations and deprived communities in the world. Governments and world leaders must ensure that people along the food supply chain are not at risk of COVID-19 transmission by raising awareness about food safety and health regulations.
Governments must again address the issue of inequality in the distribution and supply of food, water and other items needed to ease the plight of the people. Many underprivileged communities and families cannot feed themselves for a day. With the upsurge in the spread of the pandemic, it rather becomes extremely difficult to get access to any menial job. The sad part is the issue of children amongst this class of people.
This poses another health issue with malnutrition expected to go up especially amongst children. This will have a serious effect on their growth, education, lives and future. The lack of quality of life exposes children to many risk, they become vulnerable and their lives threatened by these effects.
The ministries of Food and Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the other relevant state institutions must quickly put in measures that will address any food shortage now or in the future. The National Buffer Stock Company in line with its mandate must accelerate the modernization of Agriculture and increase the productivity of Ghanaian farmers.
The introduction of block farms program which has made it possible for mechanization and extension services must be quickly spread out to cover a large acreage and a large number of farmers across the nation. To enhance yields, they must increase subsidization of fertilizers to farmers and again liaise with crop research institutions to improve seedlings.
This presents a perfect opportunity to invest in mechanized agriculture and irrigation to facilitate the produce. The injection of more tractors and other farm machinery and equipment at subsidized prices for increased mechanization of farming must be made a reality.
More so, the fisheries commission together with the fisher folks and the entire fishing communities must also demonstrate their commitment towards enhanced fishing methods and also ensuring that there is no shortage of fish or sea food as we battle the effects of the pandemic.
The government’s flagship programme dubbed Planting for Food and Jobs is a policy on agricultural campaign. This module – PFJ (crops) aims to promote food security and immediate availability of selected food crops on the market and also provide jobs.
So far, a significant impact on agricultural technologies implemented under Planting for Food and Jobs on rice production has been achieved. There is the need for government to expand the beneficiaries and increase input subsidies to promote fertilizer use and improved rice varieties. These amongst others will ensure food production, food security, food distribution and poverty alleviation with the overall aim being self-sufficient and be able to export food to generate revenue.
In the quest to address eminent food crisis as a result of COVID-19, it creates an opportunity to resolve some of the key SDGs – most importantly; youth unemployment, no poverty, zero hunger, decent work amongst others.
Beyond the immediate impacts on health, jobs and incomes; anxiety levels have risen and its very worrying. The psychological impacts on the world is enormous. The trust people have in institutions and systems is weaning each passing day. Personal security and sense of belonging are greatly affected by these phenomena and its associated issues.
The world needs to offer protection for its people, societies require rapid and decisive action by their leaders to support the most vulnerable people and the less privileged. A more coordinated policy and effort is needed to offer the assurance and safety required to navigate through this difficult times.
Key action areas include strengthened social protection, water delivery, food supply and food security, health care, housing support and specific interventions to enhance personal security of women and children. Vulnerable workers, small businesses, communities and regions must not be left out.
COVID-19 shutdowns have many unintended climate benefits, including drastic decreases in air, water and sound pollution (SDG 13, 14, and 15). In contrast, the COVID-19 pandemic could set back efforts to tackle climate change in many dimensions. Many conferences, seminars, summits have been rescheduled if not cancelled entirely; this will clearly delay all efforts to promote and achieve the global goals.
The “new normal” has come to stay, where organizing virtual meetings via zoom, Microsoft teams amongst others. Up until now, the option of virtual meetings looked like a nonstarter, COVID1-19 has made it possible and much convenient to conduct meetings without physically gatherings. Corporate bodies have quickly embraced the “Working From Home” principle (WFH).
Interestingly, it is working smoothly by offering convenience during the pandemic. It has brought meaning to work-life balance where employees can combine domestic activities with official duties. Some organizations have declared huge profit margins as productivity has increased beyond expectations. This has brought finality to the apprehension that WFH was going to pose a great threat to corporate life and work schedules as productivity was anxiously projected to dwindle.
The COVID-19 outbreak brings dire consequences for SDG 4 (Quality education) and likely to increase inequality (SDG 5 and 10). Governments need meticulous planning and investment for using remote learning and education resources to mitigate loss of learning time suffered due to the effects and fallouts of the pandemic.
More importantly, this pandemic is a unique opportunity to introduce new learning modes that can reach everyone, to prepare for emergencies, and to make the system more resilient. Educational infrastructure, access to road network and electricity must be addressed. Again, teacher to student ratios, learning materials and contact hours between teachers and students must be increased.
In all this, SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals) must be used in addressing and mitigating the impact of the pandemic, there is the urgent need to establish an effective and efficient multi-stakeholder partnership to meet the needs of people and society as we accelerate the implementation of the goals.
This requires the strengthening of domestic resource mobilization and international financial support to developing countries through grants and aids. International cooperation is urgent in the area of access to science, technology and innovation, this will enhance knowledge sharing and capacity building for the overall promotion and attainment of the goals.
The author is an SDG Advocate and Lead Partner SDG Alliance-Ghana and Dr. Ranjan Roy
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ghanasdg Facebook: SDG Alliance-Ghana Tel. # 0244204664