The devastating floods have further decelerated the slow march of Pakistan towards the targets set by the SDGs and overall human development
he Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report, 2023, launched recently, has revealed that the Asia-Pacific region is set to miss the 2030 target year by several decades to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the report of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) as the midpoint of delivering the SDGs approaches, the targets are still off track.
From the analysis of the available data and progress achieved so far, it appears that the Asia-Pacific region will miss 90 percent of the 118 targets by 2030. At the midpoint, the region should have made 50 percent progress, yet the overall progress is dismally low at only 14.4 percent.
The report doesn’t provide the status of individual countries on the SDGs. However, Pakistan is also among the countries lagging behind on the SDGs. Page 18 of the report lists countries that have made progress beyond the regional averages since 2015. The table features Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Nepal in the South Asia region. Pakistan is conspicuously missing.
The situation has actually further worsened for Pakistan after Covid-19 and the last year’s floods. Pakistan lags behind in terms of SDG progress. In 2021, Pakistan ranked 125 out of 163 on the SDGs index and had a score of 59.3, which is lower than the region’s average of 65.9.
Pakistan released a national report on the status of SDGs in 2021. The report depicted an overall positive trend on key targets under different SDGs. However, the 2022 flood has reversed several gains on various goals. According to the report, poverty in Pakistan declined between from 2014-15 to 2018-19 with 9.3 million people lifted out of poverty. However, these gains have been reversed by the 2022 flood.
The flood affected 33 million people and the Post Disaster Need Assessment Report estimated that approximately nine million people have been pushed into poverty. Some 4.3 million people have suffered job losses or disruption, adding several million new poor.
Last year’s flood has also reversed another gain of a significant decline in the proportion of population affected by disasters. Between 2015 and 2018 the number of deaths attributed to disasters had declined from 0.29 persons per 100,000 persons to 0.06 and the number of persons directly affected by disasters declined drastically from 351 to 5.4 per 100,000 population.
Last year’s flood directly affected 33 million people. At an estimated population of 235 million in 2022, the flood had affected 14,000 people per 100,000 persons. Similarly 1,739 deaths correspond to 1.35 deaths per 100,000 population. This indicates a major setback to this SDG target.
Another target that suffered a setback was food security. According to the aforementioned report, the food insecure population declined from 2.4 percent in 2018-19 to 1.8 percent in the following year. Under SDG-2, zero hunger, undernourishment declined by 4.2 percent from 20.2 percent during 2015-2019. However, according to the PDNA, floods rendered an estimated 7.6 million additional people food insecure - 3.2 pc of total population.
The PDNA estimates that around 4.4 million acres of agricultural land was damaged and 0.8 million livestock heads perished. Sindh and Balochistan are the most affected provinces, contributing 72 percent and 21 percent, respectively, to the total value of damage and losses registered in the sector.
The food insecure population declined from 2.4 percent in 2018-19 to 1.8 percent in the following year. Under SDG-2, zero hunger, undernourishment declined by 4.2 percent from 20.2 percent during 2015-2019.
Sindh expected a total of 2.3 million tonnes of rice production in 2022. The floods struck in the middle of the growing season and caused an overall loss of 1.8 million tonnes, i.e., 80 percent of the expected crop production. Sindh also lost over 60 percent of its sugarcane crop. These crop losses have direct bearing on food security which is an obvious casualty of the disaster.
Regarding good health and well-being under SDG-3, Pakistan has shown reasonable progress by improving in most of the basic health indicators. The number of mothers dying during pregnancy and live births declined by 32 percent during 2007-2019.
Anaemia among pregnant women declined from 52 percent in 2011 to 35.5 percent in 2018. Births attended by trained health personnel increased from 58 percent in 2014-15 to 68 percent in 2019-20. National vaccination coverage also improved by 11.5 percent between 2013 and 2018.
These were significant gains made possible through generous support of the international community and efforts of national health services providers. All these gains were jeopardised in the flood ravaged areas. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, estimates that almost 650,000 pregnant women in the flood-affected areas required maternal health services to ensure a safe pregnancy and childbirth.
No data is available on the impact of flood on these pregnant women and the new-born. Their ordeal is yet to be revealed. There is a possibility that mother and infant mortality rate surged during floods. Barring exceptions, these women would not have received any assistance from trained health service providers at the time of delivery.
Since all these women were scattered in undocumented camps and health service system was also in tatters during floods, most of the new-borns would also have missed critical vaccination. Considering the realities on ground, one can assume that these vital targets of health sector SDG would also have worsened.
The performance of the education sector, SDG 4, was already unimpressive. Primary completion rate, the gender gap between the primary completion rate and the national literacy rate all remained stagnant before the disaster.
Sindh, with a poor track record in education sector, was further devastated as almost half of its school infrastructure suffered massive damage. More than 35 percent of girls schools were also damaged. The floods rendered over two million children school-less for months. Rebuilding this critical infrastructure will take several years. Resultantly, Pakistan’s bleak performance on this vital SDG will worsen further.
Devastating floods have further decelerated Pakistan’s slow march towards the SDG targets and overall human development. Pakistan stood 161 out of 192 countries on Human Development Index (HDI) last year. SDGs and HDI have several common indicators.
The United Nations’ appeal for aid elicited a lacklustre response from international community. Only a small fraction of the pledges announced at the Geneva conference have been received so far. Economic health of the country is also going through a severe morbidity phase. Hardly any resources are available for providing essential social sector services to masses. Being one of the bottom countries on the HDI, Pakistan is likely to slip down by several rungs on the HDI ladder in the coming years.
The writer is a development sector professional. He can be reached at email@example.com