Pandemic has strained South Africa’s journey to Sustainable Development Goals: Ramaphosa

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on South Africa’s efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who also acknowledged that the health crisis could also provide “an unprecedented opportunity to build back better and fairer.”

Ramaphosa made the remarks on Friday in his statement at the virtual High Level Meeting of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Moment.

“We face the reality that the immense resources we have directed to fighting the coronavirus pandemic have severely set back our ability to realise the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

South Africa is the hardest hit country by the pandemic in Africa, having reported 655,572 cases and 15,772 fatalities. The figures represent 47.5 percent of Africa’s caseload and 47.2 percent of its deaths.

Globally, the country’s caseload ranks eighth, shadowed only by the figures ported by the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.

In his statement on Friday, President Ramaphosa – who is also the Chairperson of  the African Union – noted that other countries on the continent had also felt the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He reiterated calls for unity in the fight against the virus, adding that the A.U. was developing a comprehensive response to the pandemic, addressing the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

He however noted that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the SDGs were still achievable through unity.

“Working together as countries, as the international community and with our development partners, it is within our means to meet the aspirations of Agenda 2030,” he said.

“It is within our means to eradicate poverty and inequality, bring about greater economic justice and conserve our natural world for future generations.”