• The world is at a “watershed moment” for health emergency preparedness and investment in critical services due to COVID-19, according to the United Nations.
  • The organization’s third Sustainable Development Goal focuses on achieving good health and wellbeing for all by 2030.
  • But we face many challenges to getting there, from a lack of access to essential health services to the disruption of immunization due to the pandemic.

Wake up, grab some breakfast… check what’s happening with the pandemic.

With COVID-19 continuing to dominate headlines, daily updates on global health are now commonplace in our lives. But behind the big numbers of confirmed cases and global deaths, what else is going on?

The world faces myriad other health challenges that might not receive the same coverage as the coronavirus. Many stand to be exacerbated by the crisis.

Major progress was being made in improving the health of millions of people before COVID hit, according to the United Nations. It says the pandemic provides a “watershed moment” for health emergency preparedness and investment in critical services.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

So at a crucial point in the drive to achieve the third UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – here’s what health around the world looks like right now, according to the UN.

Promoting healthy lives.
Promoting healthy lives.
Image: United Nations

1. Less than half of the people in the world have access to essential health services.

2. In 2018, it’s thought that 6.2 million people under the age of 15 died. Of these – mostly preventable – deaths, 5.3 million were children under the age of five, and half of that number were in the first month of their life.

3. An increasing proportion of child deaths – and four out of every five deaths of children under five – are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

4. In sub-Saharan Africa, children are more than 15 times more likely to die before the age of five than those in wealthy countries.

5. Healthcare disruptions due to COVID-19 could reverse decades of improvements, the UN says. This could result in hundreds of thousands of additional under-five deaths this year.

6. The pandemic has interrupted childhood immunization programmes in about 70 countries.

7. Illness and deaths caused by communicable diseases are expected to spike due to the crisis, with people unable or afraid to visit healthcare facilities for check-ups, vaccinations and even urgent medical care.

8. The cancellation of health services could lead to a 100% increase in malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, the UN says.

9. HIV is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide.

10. Lockdowns and border closures have affected the production and distribution of medicines, which could lead to price hikes and supply issues. It’s estimated that prices of exported antiretroviral medicines from India could rise to up to 25% higher than normal.

11. 94% of all maternal deaths are in low- and lower-middle income countries, and over 55% of countries have fewer than 40 nurses and midwifery staff per 10,000 people.

12. And over 40% of countries have fewer than 10 medical doctors per 10,000 people.

13. In all, an additional 18 million health workers are needed, mainly in low- and lower-middle income countries, if the world is to realize the SDG of achieving universal health coverage by 2030.