Ahead of the 75th World Health Assembly, the 13 signatory agencies of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All (SDG3 GAP) have released their third progress report, Stronger collaboration for an equitable and resilient recovery towards the health-related SDGs, incentivizing collaboration.
The report notes that, more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by overlapping global crises, progress on the health-related SDGs is further off track. Countries have achieved about one-fourth of what is needed to achieve the SDG health targets by 2030.
It also highlights the need for the SDG3 Global Action Plan, with its focus on improving collaboration to help accelerate SDG implementation by countries. The report gives examples of how new, more joined-up ways of working are having an impact on people’s health, and outlines ways to further improve this, for example through creating more incentives for agencies to work more closely together.
Over the past year, the initiative has bolstered its structures for collaboration, with 52 countries (an increase of 15 since last year) receiving joint support from agencies. An SDG3 GAP “recovery strategy” and a joint letter from heads of agencies to country teams, including UN Resident Coordinators, further set out a path to not only scale joint work by the agencies to more countries, but to deepen collaboration in countries to better support country needs and to ensure that no one is left behind.
The SDG3 GAP continues to align its work with global health initiatives to reduce fragmentation in the global health architecture. The aim is to make it easier for countries to coordinate with agencies, increase efficiencies and facilitate progress towards universal health coverage. For example, the SDG3 GAP has fully integrated H6/Every Woman Every Child initiative and is working in countries such as the Republic of Congo, to improve reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health services, through strengthened coordination of technical and financial partners.
In an effort to align, the initiative has also built communities of practice in accelerator areas such as primary health care, with a strong focus on gender equality and equity. For example, agencies’ support to Pakistan through the primary health care and sustainable financing accelerators, has led to the piloting of a new essential package of health services, together with an investment case to enable long-term, sustainable scale-up of and more equitable access to health services, including by focusing on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities, identified by the number of children who have not received one single dose of vaccine.
Signatory agencies have now addressed the six recommendations of the 2020 joint evaluability assessment of the SDG3 GAP, paving the way for an independent evaluation in 2023. Through the SDG3 GAP monitoring framework, countries are rating how well the agencies work together and have suggested ways to strengthen national coordination mechanisms and align further with their national priorities.
“SDG3 GAP agencies have strengthened their collaboration on Primary Health Care and other areas in more than 50 countries. But to truly transform how we jointly support countries to recover to the SDGs will require stronger incentives for collaboration,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, Chair of the SDG3 GAP Principals Group.
Incentives are essential to encourage closer collaboration among SDG3 GAP agencies. The new report cites four areas that have been piloted as effective approaches to incentivize collaboration: joint funding, joint monitoring, joint evaluation and joint “governance”. The aim is to refine and scale them in 2022 and beyond.
As stated by SDG3 GAP agencies
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
“We cannot have an equitable recovery from the pandemic if we leave the most vulnerable in our communities behind. This includes the zero-dose children who have not received a single vaccine shot. We need strong collaboration across agencies and with countries so that we can reach zero dose children, and expand access to families who are missing out on crucial primary health care services.”
Dr Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank and Director, Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents
“There can be no doubt: partnership and collaboration are a critical way forward to support country leadership in addressing the overlapping challenges and crises that are preventing millions of women, children and adolescents to survive and thrive.”
Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization
“The GAP helped to raise awareness about decent work deficits in the health sector and the need for sustainable investments in the health workforce, including in decent working conditions and equipment.”
Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund
“We began 2022 facing unprecedented health challenges. If we are going to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3: health and well-being for all, we need to turbocharge our collaboration, funding and commitment to fight today’s health crises and prepare for the health threats we know will come. The most effective way to do this is an integrated approach where we leverage each other’s strengths to maximize our resources and our impact.”
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS
“To ensure a resilient recovery, and to meet the health-related SDGs, leaders will need to take courageous actions to tackle the inequalities holding back progress. Leaders need to work in true partnership with community-led organisations, empower women and girls, end discrimination, ensure that new health technologies reach everyone who needs them, and invest in health and in social protection. To emerge from the crisis, the only realistic strategy is to be bold.”
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
“The COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies and other shocks reinforce the fragility of health and human security. Life expectancy – our gold standard measurement of global health – has declined for two years running in the wake of COVID-19. Regaining lost ground on the health-related SDGs, preparing for future crises, and realizing a world where both people and planet thrive is crucial. With SDG3 GAP partners, UNDP is supporting countries to tackle the determinants of health using innovation, data and digital solutions to strengthen equitable, resilient, and sustainable systems for health which leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first.”
Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that strong, high-quality health systems must reach everyone. UNFPA, along with our partners in the SDG 3 Global Action Plan, are working in crisis settings around the world to shore up the resilience of women and girls and protect critical health systems.”
Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director
“As multiple crises threaten our hard-won progress in improving child health, now more than ever, we all need to pull in the same direction. Through the SDG 3 GAP, 13 agencies are coming together to support country-led efforts to strengthen primary health care and health systems. Every child, everywhere, has a right to survive and thrive and the SDG 3 GAP is helping us reach the hardest to reach children, including those in zero-dose communities.”
Dr Philippe Duneton, Executive Director, Unitaid
“Unitaid is engaged in finding innovative solutions to better prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases, and is committed to increasing and improving access to those innovations for the people who need them the most. Thanks to partnerships such as the Global Action Plan, Unitaid and partners are helping to accelerate progress made towards achieving global health goals.”
Sima Sami Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women
“Inequalities arising from discriminatory practices, cultural and social norms impact many aspects of women’s health. The Global Action Plan gives us ways to address these head-on and to advance gender equality more broadly. Through it, we can work to ensure that more women and girls can make informed decisions about, and have control over, their bodies, health and futures. We can address the passage and implementation of laws that protect sexual and reproductive rights. And we can create stronger community engagement to increase the demand for and access to health services, including ending COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and increasing investments in health systems that support greater well-being for all.”
Dr Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank Group
“In a world challenged by multiple crises at the same time, global agencies working better together in supporting countries to turn around the pandemic’s impact on health and human capital is of paramount importance.”
David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme
“WFP is stepping up to deliver on the SDGs for health and nutrition by supporting the global response to COVID-19, delivering lifesaving medical supplies in emergencies and working with our partners to improve the food security of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”