Opinion & Analysis

Decade of action for SDGs & status of Ghana’s indicator in the VNR report of 2022.     

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By Baptista S. H.Gebu (Mrs.)

Ghana recently launched its 2022 Voluntary National Review (VNR) report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) at the Accra International Conference Centre with Denkyirahemaa Nanahemaa Ama Ayensua Saara III as chairperson for the occasion, the Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission – Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Mr. Charles Abani – the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ghana together with a host of several dignitaries launched this report at a colourful ceremony held here in Accra. ProHumane Afrique International and several CSO networks were equally present at this launch. The Status of Ghana’s progress as specified in this report caught my addition. 

The 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides the expectations from government, citizens, and other entities on what should be accomplished by the state. These expectations make room for human rights, balanced development, environmental protection, international affairs, among others. According to the report, a total of 102 indicators were assessed in the 2022 VNR compared to 66 in the year 2019.

World leaders declared the period 2020 to 2030 as the Decade of Action for the Sustainable De­velopment Goals (SDGs) in September 2019. According to His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana in his opening remarks read on his behalf; He cherished strongly the hope that this would trigger the rapid scaling-up of sustainable solutions needed to address the critical challenges facing our world. Unfortunately, few months after this historic declaration, our world was hit by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, push­ing us into “unchartered territory”, while fear and sheer terror gripped many.

The pandemic since have had a devastating effect on lives, livelihoods, global supply chains, businesses, and significant­ly eroded the development gains made over the last decade and the prospects of achieving the SDGs have become more daunting, but he dare say that giving up is not an option for Ghana. As the world re-opens up and begins to recover from the deleterious effects of the pandem­ic, the SDGs have, become even more relevant as they present us with a credible pathway for a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and peaceful world.

Ghana’s decision to conduct its second Voluntary National Review this year underscores our unflinching belief in, and commitment to, the 2030 Agenda. We must be determined not to allow the devastating effects of the pandemic to deflate our efforts with just over eight years left to the 2030 end-date. Strengthening “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” ap­proach, while more strongly exploring innovative financing arrangements will ensure that, indeed, No One is Left Behind. Key to success will be harnessing science, technology and innovation; deepening strategic partnerships, particularly, with the private sector and tradi­tional leaders; and unleashing the enterprise of women and the youth.

Ghana’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR), following on from the first in 2019, represents an important progressive milestone for the country. This report is the result of a consultative and participatory process led by the National Development Planning Commission, involving Government of Ghana Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Civil Society Organization’s (including representation of youth, women, children and persons living with disabilities), the private sector, UN Agencies and a host of development partners.

The main messages emerging from the 2022 VNR, highlight Ghana’s need to restore and transform the economy to create opportunities for all, especially young people; broaden social protection for vulnerable groups, including persons with disability, to enhance social inclusion; strengthen innovative financing and resource mobilisation through expanded multi-stakeholder partnerships, especially with the private sector; build an integrated national financing framework and harness emerging opportunities such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. Ghana will need to address infrastructure deficits in key sectors (health, education, and sanitation services); support the national digitalization drive; and mitigate the impacts of climate change and variability for green growth. His Excellency Mr. Charles Abani – the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ghana indicated in a brief statement.

What then is the status of the indicators as reported in the 2022 VNR on the SDG’s?

SDG goal one is looking at “ending poverty in all its form everywhere”.   Following the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 3 out of 4 households reported a decrease in their income, and the proportion of households classified as poor is estimated to have risen to 25.5 percent in 2020 from 23.4 percent in 2017. Poverty in Ghana is more prominent in rural areas and the northern part of the country the report indicated.  What then are the emerging issues for consideration; reduced households’ income levels, loss of jobs, low expenditure on social protection, general increase in poverty, late release of LEAP payments, low coverage and expenditure on social protection, currently below 1 percent as against the target of 4.5 percent.

SDG goal two calls for an “end to hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture.   According to the report, the proportion of the population experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity based on food insecurity and experience scale (FIES) declined from 49.5 percent in 2017 to 47.7 percent in June 2020 and 47.0 percent in September 2020. Those experiencing severe food insecurity however increased from 8 percent in 2017 to 9.5 percent in June 2020 at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic and declined to 6.2 percent in September 2020 following government interventions.  What then are the emerging issues for consideration; marginal decrease in food insecurity, increase in food inflation, low orientation by government to agriculture, decrease in farm animal production and delay in input supplies.

Goal 3 is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Maternal deaths have declined from 580 per 100,000 live births in 2007 to 301 per 100,000 live births in 2021. The slow pace of maternal death decline makes it difficult for the country to achieve the SDGs target of 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.  Similarly, maternal deaths recorded at health facilities have reduced since 2007 to 109 per 100,000 live births in 2020 and is projected to reach 62 per 100,000 live births in 2024. What then are the emerging issues for consideration; increase in government expenditure on health, high incidence of non-communicable diseases, urgent need for local vaccine production, urgent need for Ghana Centre for Disease Control (CDC), high doctor to population ratio  and unequal distribution of health facilities the report mentioned.

SDG goal four is to “ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The level of proficiency in English language and Mathematics is very low among Primary 4 (P4) and Primary 6 (P6) pupils. The National Educational Assessment conducted in 2018 shows a decline in proficiency in English language and Mathematics for both P4 and P6. Proficiency in English language was 25 percent for both Primary 4 and Primary 6, while for Mathematics; it was 19 percent for P4 and 22 percent for P6. Generally, girls outperformed boys in English language in P4 and P6 while boys performed better than girls in Mathematics in P6.  A similar situation is also observed in BECE pass rates and functional literacy, where girls outperformed boys in English language and boys outperformed girls in Mathematics.  The National standardised test was introduced in 2021 to help improve proficiency at the basic level. The maiden edition was conducted in December 2021 for all primary four (P4) pupils in public basic school.

Also, findings from the Rapid Assessment on School Absenteeism and Dropout by Girls had it that; although school attendance and completion rates have improved at all levels, menstruation remains a major contributor to school absenteeism and dropout among girls particularly in the rural areas. This is a result of a myriad of challenges counting: the increasing cost of sanitary materials, making some girls resorting to unhygienic materials; menstrual pain and related health issues; fear of staining oneself and the perceived stigma; the absence of a sick bay or rest area to help girls rest during painful menstrual cramps; no or limited access to water and sanitary facilities; washrooms not disability friendly for  people with disability (PWDs); and lack of convenient places to dispose used sanitary materials.

Also, progress reported on the Technical, Vocational Education and Training front had it that; from 2017 to 2021, the number of Technical and Vocational Institutes (TVIs) in the country remained the same irrespective of the increasing demand. This was partly due to funding challenges in providing new TVIs across the country. However, the enrolment figures in the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service (MOE/GES) TVIs have increased steadily from 54,186 in 2017 to 71,126 in 2021, representing an annual average growth of 7.8 percent. Work on branding the TVET sector for attractiveness and good customer service ProHumane Afrique International still finds missing in the report but a major issue for consideration. TVET ProHumane has been advocating severally is not meant for school drop outs. It is a life skill, and a life skill is life in itself. What then are the emerging issues for consideration; Widening disparities between urban and rural education outcomes, limited access to alternative learning platforms for rural leaners, gradual improvements in JHS completion rate, low literacy in rural areas and among females, declining net enrolment rate at all levels, low enrolment of children with disabilities in schools, increasing TVIs with disability-friendly facilities and stagnation of Gender Parity Index at SHS level. ProHumane adds to the emerging issues – period poverty needs and the need to do away with the 20% luxury tax on menstrual products.  ProHumane is urging governments to help eliminate the 20 percent luxury tax on menstrual hygiene products because issues of Menstrual Hygiene Health Management remains a major challenge for women and girls not only in Ghana but globally. Please don’t tax our periods. Support need for sustainable and environmentally- friendly alternatives as well.

SDG goal five is calling on all to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Looking at the effect of COVID-19 on gender equality, women and girls, the report had it that. Generally, the partial lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic led to families spending more time together. This largely exposed women and girls to increased risks of gender-based violence including sexual exploitation and abuses. In 2021, there were 467 cases of domestic violence reported through the Orange Support Centre. What then are the emerging issues for consideration; lower mobile phone ownership among female population, slow progress in rape and defilement cases , decline in women representation in ministerial positions since 2019 and majority of agricultural lands are without documentation.

Subsequent editions will review the other SDG goals to include; goal 6  where we are to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,  goal 7- ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;   goal 8 – promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Goal 9 – build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Goal 10 – reduce inequality within and among countries. Goal 11 – make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Goal 12- ensures sustainable consumption and production patterns.  Goal 13 – take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Goal 14- conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Goal 15- protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Goal 16 –promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Goals 17-strengthen the Means of Implementation and Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

Let’s take the SDG pledge together. Pledge with me to make sustainability a priority in our lives. I understand that my actions, behaviors, and choices make an impact on the society, environment, and our economy. I pledge to make intentional choices that will benefit the quality of life for myself and advocate for choices that benefit the lives of others. Don’t only be awesome in life, learn to #beHumane.

Baptista is a Hybrid Professional and the Executive Director of ProHumane Afrique International.  ProHumane is a charitable, development & think thank organization working with communities & individuals to create sustainable solutions to transform communities through diverse pro-poor initiatives. Pro-poor initiatives are initiatives that help to alleviate poverty. Baptista is a realist, affable, simple and humane. You can reach us via e-mail on prohumaneafrique@gmail.com  and follow this conversation on all our social media sites: Linked-In/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram: ProHumane Afrique International.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Hashtag: #behumane #thegivingcapsules #prohumaneafriqueint  #fowc

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