By Samuel Jekeli
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a response to the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. SDGs are segmented into 17 different strata and these are targeted at addressing 169 world problems before the year 2030. This discourse reviews and will lay emphasis on the implementation of SDG 3. SDG 3 focuses on “Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages”. The targets of this SDG include to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030, to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030 and to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases by 2030.
The other targets are to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being by 2030, to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol and to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents to 3.7 by 2020. SDG 3 also hopes to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes by 2030. It seeks to achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. Although, Nigeria as at 2022 still has some backlogs in meeting the full targets of SDG 3 within its territory, there has so far been a commendable level of improvements especially in the area of under-five mortality rates which has experienced notable progress. The current infant mortality rate for Nigeria in 2022 is 56.220 deaths per 1000 live births which is a 2.57% decline from 2021.
The infant mortality rate for Nigeria in 2021 was 57.701 deaths per 1000 live births which was a 2.5% decline from 2020. According to the SDGs Voluntary National Review done in the year 2020 in Nigeria, it was noted that a key lesson in protecting the public in times of pandemics such as COVID 19 amongst others, is hygiene and the need to prioritize universal access to clean water and soap. Though some progress has been made, Nigeria must invest more in public health and ensure that the most vulnerable in the country are reached through universal access to essential services.
SDGs 3 can be met but only with seriousness and commitment. The federal, state and local governments must engage in meaningful collaborative effort to stem off the challenges surrounding the country’s healthcare system. The era of paying lip service to healthcare should be replaced with policy implementation through effective deployment of resources. Proper and measurable process evaluations are critical at key intervals and should be built into the implementation plans. This will help keep the implementation of the SDGs 3 programme on course, and when deviations occur, make corrections early enough to achieve the goal on or before 2030. Systems should be developed and put in place in all segments of the health system – including financial and procurement management systems.
Health professionals should be trained and retrained to ensure proper re-orientation in a new integrated care management system. These training should also be aimed at building transparency into the system, developing skilled data managers and excellent evaluators who will conduct both the process and summative evaluations. The time to work differently in Nigeria is now. Positive change is a choice, and not a chance occurrence. Change results from choices made, not a product of what is happening. It is triggered by purpose, new methodologies, passion, focus, sacrifice, and discipline. Nigeria must embrace positive change to achieve good health and well-being come 2030.
Monitoring and evaluation of health programmes and integrating monitoring results into the design of reformative programmes is imperative. This will mainstream lessons from previous implementation to avoid repeating mistakes while replicating best practices. It is therefore incumbent on the federal, state and local governments to key fully into the realization of SDGs 3 as it is comprehensive and includes issues of Primary Health Care, Universal Health Coverage, preventive and curative health as well as health through the secondary and tertiary health care systems.
Jekeli writes from Abuja