How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?

How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?


There is no doubt that the current pandemic has a broad humanitarian, social and economic impact in the short, medium and long term, which in turn may affect or delay the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at different levels and in various ways.

The most evident impact, obviously, is on Goal 3, which seeks to guarantee a healthy life and promote well-being. The pandemic has put enormous pressures on health systems not only in relation to the treatment and management of the virus, but also affecting the ability to care for patients who have other diseases and increasing the risk of complications in populations with compromised health states. The pandemic has given greater visibility to the importance of universal access to health systems regardless of people's migratory status. However, the pandemic will also have implications for other aspects of the 2030 Agenda.


Impacts beyond health

COVID-19 is also having a negative impact on the employment, economic and social situation of many households around the world, and on their ability to meet their needs, even the most basic ones. The economic crisis that the countries of the region are facing and the growing unemployment will be decisive in this regard, since apart from the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean reached an unemployment rate of 8.1% at the end of 2019, according to the International Labor Organization. And according to ECLAC projections, labor unemployment will rise to 11.5% in the same region, as a result of the contraction of economic activity by COVID-19.

Unemployment and the loss of purchasing power affect more severely migrant populations, since they are very often employed in the informal sector of the economy and have more precarious contractual working conditions, particularly women migrant workers. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, informal work engages around 50% of the total number of people employed. The increase in unemployment will impact the scope of Goal 8 (on full and productive employment and decent work for all), but also Goal 1 (the fight against poverty), Goal 2 (the eradication of hunger, food security and better nutrition), Goal 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls), and targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2, on trafficking and exploitation of people. ECLAC also emphasizes that Latin America and the Caribbean is already suffering a fall of -5.3% in GDP, the worst in its history.

Likewise, this pandemic could accentuate existing inequalities in societies, as well as the vulnerabilities of certain population groups, and consequently delay the achievement of Goal 10, which seeks to reduce inequalities between and within countries. In this context, migrants are one of those vulnerable groups that have been particularly affected by the pandemic and that are often left behind or forgotten in social protection and economic relaunch plans, or have limited access to them, either because of language barriers or because of their immigration status. All of this despite the enormous contribution that migrant workers make to the operation of essential basic services in many countries, as has become evident during this crisis.

Additionally, a decrease in the amount of international remittances is projected, which, according to the World Bank, would be reduced between 10% and 19.3% by 2020. Remittances are a fundamental component in the economy of some countries in the region, where they can amount to between 5% and 20% of the national Gross Domestic Product. A significant reduction in remittances would jeopardize the ability of many households in those countries to meet their most basic needs and their ability to invest in improving nutrition, education, and reducing child labor, among others, further emphasizing existing inequalities.

Finally, at the state level, due to the economic slowdown we are experiencing and urgent health needs, it is very likely that there will be a decrease in social spending or a reorientation of available resources, potentially at the expense of the more comprehensive vision contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, again affecting the scope of the transversal objectives of the 2030 Agenda.


Recovery and SDGs: the same path

But this should not lead us to pessimism and to think that we have lost the fight to achieve the SDGs. On the contrary, it is essential at this time to work together and forcefully to identify the additional difficulties that the current pandemic presents in achieving the 2030 Agenda. We must redouble our commitment and our efforts to ensure that the impact of the pandemic is incorporated into national plans and international assistance, as well as that the different realities and vulnerabilities of some specific groups are incorporated.

For this we must work from now on to ensure the universal attention of the health and education systems; in reducing remittance transfer costs (a topic included in Goal 10), as El Salvador is already doing, creating more resilient and inclusive cities in line with Goal 11 or strengthening forms of regular migration for migrant workers and decent working conditions (Goal 8).

The time is now: all organizations, governments and individuals have an important role in ensuring that the efforts for our Latin American region and the world to recover from the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are aligned with the 2030 Agenda and that we make sure we do not leave anyone behind.



How has the pandemic affected migrant children?

How has the pandemic affected migrant children?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statistics and available data reveal that children belong to the population group that has suffered the least health impact, as they are less prone to the risk of infection, especially compared to older adults.

However, these data refer merely to the health effects of the pandemic. Critical social consequences, such as school closings, mobility restrictions and increased economic difficulties, have contributed to increased insecurity and vulnerability of the younger population, who will have to cope with the short and long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

The situation of double precariousness of migrant and displaced children, who are already among the most vulnerable populations in the world, has deteriorated during the pandemic, due to greater exposure to situations of poverty aggravated by the economic crisis, to human rights violations, such as in the cases of labor exploitations of minors, fostered by losses in household income, and temporarily suspended access to education, together with an increased risk of suffering from mental illness in such a discouraging and critical context.

According to an IOM article on the implications of the pandemic on migrant children, among the most relevant are:

Increase in dismissals: In some countries, the pandemic has been used as a justification to increase the return of minors to their countries of origin and to paralyze distribution in shelters. In the United States, however, 24,000 migrant children have been able to leave immigration detention centres since the beginning of the pandemic. Even more numerous have been the forced repatriations of minors to Central American countries, in particular Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala, despite the fact that the communities of origin of migrants may not present the necessary conditions to guarantee their safety and protection. Furthermore, the dismissals have been carried out without testing for the virus and without ascertaining whether migrants needed protection for fear of being persecuted in their countries of origin.

Deterioration of the situation in shelters and detention centres: The reduced number of humanitarian workers in shelters, the shortage of basic resources and supplies, and the decline in services provided to migrants have hardened the living conditions of children in reception centres, intensifying their vulnerability. During the COVID-19 emergency, the capability of child protection systems in northern Central America and Mexico has also been weakened due to a lack of personal protective equipment, which has implied fewer protection services, virus testing and treatment.

School closure and exclusion: Isolation measures have forced schools to paralyze their activities. Migrant children may lack the resources to take courses online, such as computers and other types of digital technology devices. This lack can affect the future possibilities to get out of poverty through their human capital and skills, together with the increase in school dropouts. Likewise, migrant children may encounter more difficulties in terms of language learning, which leads to a lower ability to integrate. It also has to be taken into account that, being at home and not at school, children need more attention. This could force their mothers and fathers to leave their jobs to take care of them, affecting the economic situation of the family, which in turn may lead to child labour episodes in the future.

Border closure and increased xenophobia: The journey of unaccompanied and accompanied migrant children to the country of destination has been abruptly interrupted, due to measures to restrict mobility and border closures. Young migrants, temporarily stranded in areas near the borders, have been exposed to greater forms of xenophobia by the community in the country of transit, being accused, in many cases erroneously, of bringing the disease or facilitating contagion. As the IOM report indicates, the closure of borders, together with the deportations of minors, has led to a drop in cases of protective custody of children.

Discrimination in the community of origin: Young migrants who escape from situations of conflict, persecution, environmental calamity, abuse, violence and lack of opportunities, are exposed to human rights violations and difficult conditions not only along the way to the country of destination, but also when returning to their country of origin, as they are sometimes perceived as possible sources of contagion. Henrietta Foe, Executive Director of UNICEF, pointed out that “many children who return face a double risk and are more in danger than when they left their communities”, as they have to confront again with the situation of insecurity in their community of origin and are victims of increased discrimination.

Effects on mental health: The highest levels of tension and stress of the migrant population also affect children, especially in cases where the COVID-19 disease causes the death of their fathers or mothers, which can lead to increased exposure to abuse. Many migrant and displaced children may suffer from psychological trauma, marginalization or stigma, in addition to not being able to receive psychological support during the pandemic.

Although the reports in the media focus on sharing mainly statistics and data about the number of people who have contracted the COVID-19 disease, we must also focus our attention on generating debates and policies for the population stratum that will experience the longest-lasting impact of the pandemic: children.

Migrant children need immediate protection and social and health assistance, that will allow them to learn, grow and achieve better living conditions. They must be a priority to counteract and reduce the short and long-term effects of the pandemic.