Of all the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have just been adopted, Goal Three is probably the most important one for me because good health is key to every other endeavour in life.
The SDGs are coming just on the heels of the Ebola pandemic that rocked the world particularly devastating parts of West Africa. It is estimated that at the end of August 2015, over 28,000 confirmed cases and a resultant 11,311 deaths were recorded. Now, according to WHO and CDC, this is just an estimate because evidence suggests underreported values by a whopping 70 percent!
Goal Three of the newly adopted SDGs talks about “ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages”. As with all the other 16 goals, there are specific targets outlined which guide the implementation of these goals. For goal three, some of the targets include:
- reduction of maternal mortality,
- ending preventable deaths in newborns and children under 5,
- ending the epidemics of AIDS, TB, malaria and other communicable and neglected diseases such as hepatitis,
- universal access to sexual and reproductive health,
- support research and development of vaccines and medicines,
- strengthen capacity for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global risks etc.
While all of these targets are very crucial for the world to achieve this goal by 2030, as far as the recent Ebola pandemic is concerned, the issue of strengthening every country’s health systems capacity in early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global risks is the key to preventing such a staggering death toll in future. It is no secret that the reasons why the outbreak was uncontrollable in the affected countries include but are not exclusive to weak health systems and poor or non-existent disease monitoring and reporting systems.
In order for us to defeat the scourge of such preventable diseases, African nations need to invest in strong surveillance and reporting systems that will help us understand diseases as they emerge and prevent such challenges completely! This is why African heads of states in 2001 in Abuja Nigeria pledged to increase funding for their health sectors to 15% of their national budgets. Investments into prevention mechanisms should be at the heart of national health strategies because, like they say, prevention is better than cure. We must ensure that solid structures of surveillance and monitoring for such communicable and non-communicable diseases are put in place. However, it is not just enough for us to look out for these emerging or re-emerging diseases, we also need to have systems that monitor the frequently occurring diseases so that we can quickly pick up changes or shifts in disease patterns which will properly guide intervention.
We need to educate the people on the importance of seeking medical attention for all illnesses, especially those presenting with “unusual” symptoms. Let’s not forget the need to invest in training health care workers on the need to be on the lookout for any suspicious symptoms and have a unit in every health care facility that deals with the investigation and reporting of diseases that exhibit unusual symptoms
These efforts should not only be at national level, we need effective regional laboratories that can confirm these cases and give a full and detailed insight into the exact causative agent of the diseases as they emerge. There should be ways of tracing cases to their source to prevent further transmission.
All health care facilities should have functional protective medical care facilities such as quarantine units; barrier nursing clothing; and equipment, personal protective equipment etc. and health care workers should be properly trained on how to use them.
To reach goal three, our governments need to keep their promise and invest the 15%. If the promise is kept, Goal Three will be achieved effectively by 2030.
Learn more about the Global Goals at one.org/globalgoals and follow the conversation on social media at #GlobalGoals.