CARE International, a network of independent national organizations fighting poverty and social injustice in over 100 countries, warns that progress towards the SDGs suffered significant disruptions amid the pandemic. A survey found that the coverage of SDGs by online articles reached a minimum, below 1%, during the pandemic last year while at the same time coverage of the SDG 3 on good health and well-being deteriorated significantly due to the turbulence brought about by COVID-19.
Media Coverage on SDGs
A survey by Care International, together with Meltwater, an agency providing international media monitoring services, revealed that between January and December 2021, amid the soaring pandemic-related crisis, only 884,084 or 0.017% of about 512.2 million online published articles referred to Agenda 2030 or the SDGs, and around a quarter of articles citing SDGs touched upon these only in relation to the pandemic. Overall, the highest number of articles covering SDGs, 0.14%, was published in Spanish followed by Japanese and Chinese articles on SDGs at 0.11%.
Last year, according to the study, SDG 3 on good health and well-being, SDG 1 on ending poverty, and SDG 5 on gender equality received the highest attention from the articles analyzed during the survey. For instance, media produced in English, Japanese and Spanish had the highest number of articles on SDG 5, while articles in English approached gender equality only in 0.007% of cases, specifically 15,404 articles of 218.4 million.
SDG 4 on quality education was the fourth most addressed with articles in Bengali and Arabic discussing the quality of education the most. Articles produced in Russian mentioned SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities the most and the French media also focused on SDG 11. In contrast, articles published in German and Japanese discussed SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production the most.
Fig.1. Most present SDGs ranked by highest number of articles published in 2021
Source: Care International
Progress toward SDG 3 across Europe, South Asia and Southeast Asia
The coronavirus pandemic put economies all around the world under pressure, crashing healthcare systems even in advanced countries. The resulting global health emergency exacerbated the progress being made towards all the SDGs, particularly affecting SDG 3 on good health, and well-being as this is closely connected to other goals. While before the pandemic, reaching the targets of SDG 3 seemed feasible, the pandemic has made it harder to reach those that aim to end the pandemic, ensure universal access to reproductive healthcare and global maternal mortality ratio as well as to fight non-communicable diseases, and mental health.
In 2020, even though the global coverage of measles vaccine was 87%, this was very much below the target that was set at 95% and 25 countries stopped their measles vaccine campaigns, putting about 80 million children at risk. Screening against non-communicable diseases also dropped dramatically leading to the number of deaths due to non-communicable diseases reaching approximately 41,000,000, yet many countries, including those in Europe, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, began to make less screening available. In Italy, the screening rates for breast cancer and cervical cancer dropped to 54% and 55%, respectively during the first quarter of 2020. The screening rates for colorectal cancer decreased by 58% in 2020 in the Czech Republic.
To restore progress towards reaching the SDGs the support of everyone is necessary according to the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations (2007–2016) and co-founder of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, Ban Ki-moon.
“The planet and future generations need everyone at the table — governments, the private sector and civil society, academia — working to accomplish what no one can do alone. We must continue to be guided by the principles of cooperation, unity, responsibility, and empathy. Building on what we have already learnt, we must have the necessary courage, wisdom, and solidarity to reverse the impact of COVID-19 which will be felt in every corner of the world for several years,” he said.