UN agency: Prolonged pandemic leaving marginalized sectors behind in sustainable goals | Inquirer Business

UN agency: Prolonged pandemic leaving marginalized sectors behind in sustainable goals

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 05:28 PM March 17, 2022
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MANILA, Philippines—The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has made it tougher for sectors already marginalized prior to the health crisis—like women, the poor, elderly, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and those living in the countryside—to catch up with the United Nations’ (UN) sustainable development goals (SDGs) for 2030, according to a report of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Thursday (March 17).

As 2030 fast approaches, Unescap said in its “Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2022: Widening disparities amid COVID-19” that Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Indonesia which hosted the biggest poverty prevalence in the region, was “on track to eradicate poverty for individuals living below international and national poverty lines” of $1.90 per day.

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However, Unescap said there was “little headway” in improving the quality of education in Asean, “with signs of regression in inequality indices and relatively low reading and mathematics proficiency among children and young people.”

“Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand recorded less than 50 percent of lower secondary students achieving minimum reading and mathematics proficiency for both sexes,” Unescap noted.

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In a statement, Unescap said that across Asia-Pacific, “average progress in the region disproportionately excludes some groups with distinct demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.”

“Those furthest behind, including women, PWDs, rural populations and poorer households, are also facing increased vulnerabilities. For many vulnerable populations, food security, education and livelihoods have also deteriorated during the pandemic,” Unescap said.

For instance, Unescap’s report highlighted surveys conducted at the height of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns, which had shown that the pandemic inflicted more hardships on PWDs in the Philippine labor market. “In the Philippines, the pandemic affected the employment of 70 percent of surveyed PWDs.”

Unescap added that children with disabilities were also further marginalized in the Philippines. “Major concerns cited by nearly 40,000 survey respondents included the inability to access essential services, specifically education services and learning resources (52 percent), child development services (51 percent), habilitation and rehabilitation services (49 percent), and general health services (43 percent).”

The elderly also struggled a lot amid the pandemic. “According to rapid assessments in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines, approximately half of the respondents had limited access to their regular medication as a result of COVID-19. Forty-one percent of respondents reported that access to health care facilities was reduced because of the pandemic” among older persons, Unescap said.

Poor populations in the Philippines and many low-lying parts of Asia-Pacific would also be at greatest risk from climate-related hazards, Unescap added.

“The challenges of achieving SDGs in the region have been magnified in recent years by an increase in the frequency and intensity of human-made crises and natural disasters, as well as the challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Unescap said.

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“Progress on the 17 SDGs have tremendously slowed down and with each passing year, the goals are moving further out of reach for the region. At its current pace, Asia and the Pacific is now only expected to achieve the SDGs by 2065 — more than three and a half decades behind the original goalpost,” Unescap added.

“A better understanding of development outcomes for distinct population groups and intersecting vulnerabilities is key to a fairer recovery. The SDGs cannot be achieved without protecting the most vulnerable, many of whom have been particularly affected by the pandemic,” said Armida Salsiah, UN undersecretary general and Unescap executive secretary.

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TAGS: ASEAN, Indonesia, Philippines, Poverty, Southeast Asia, UN Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations
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