Elevating Human Dignity: JENA’s Advocacy at UNGA 78 for Health, and Education Equity in Africa

By:Charlie Chilufya, S.J,

The Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network – Africa (JENA) and partners actively participated in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, which ran from 12th to 25th September 2023. Our engagements and dialogues were pivotal, emphasizing the urgent needs and developmental goals of Africa in health, education, and holistic human development.

United for a Common Goal

The assembly, themed ‘Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity: Accelerating Action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals’, resonated with our mission to fortify efforts towards achieving peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all.

Striving for Health Equity: A Deep Dive into Global Health Concerns

In our participation in discussions and dialogues at UNGA 78, JENA, along with its partners, delved deeply into the myriad health-related challenges plaguing the world, especially those relevant to low- and middle-income countries. Our focus was primarily on the pressing issues outlined in the Zero draft of the political declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) – A Growing Concern

Noncommunicable diseases, encompassing conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease, remain a substantial global concern. These ailments are responsible for a staggering 74 percent of all deaths worldwide, with a significant majority, 86 percent, of premature deaths—those occurring before reaching 70 years of age—occurring in low- and middle-income countries. (Source: WHO Technical Brief on NCDs).

Unmet Health Needs – A Catalyst for Increased Morbidity and Mortality

Our expressions of concern were paramount about the unmet health needs, especially among households unable to afford the cost of health services, as this can lead to increased morbidity and mortality due to lack of or delayed access to health services (Source: Based on WHO EB152 (5) PP15).

Communicable Diseases – Varied Progress and Persistent Challenges

The progress on communicable diseases in 2021 varied significantly, exemplified by an estimated 1.5 million new HIV infections and approximately 1.6 million deaths from TB, accompanied by a rise in the TB incidence rate by 3.6 percent between 2020 and 2021. The scourge of malaria continued unabated, with 247 million cases reported globally.

Furthermore, treatment and care remain pivotal for 1.65 billion people still afflicted by neglected tropical diseases. (Source: Based on SG’s Progress Report on SDGs, advanced version).

Maternal Mortality and Child Deaths – A Grave Reality

The stark reality remains that almost 800 women continue to die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with almost 95 percent of these deaths occurring in low and lower-middle-income countries. Additionally, a heart-wrenching five million children did not live to see their fifth birthday in 2021. (Source: Based on SG’s Progress Report on SDGs, advanced version).

Read more on Elevating Human Dignity: JENA’s Advocacy at UNGA 78 for Health, and Education Equity in Africa;https://pdf.ac/2waJ8J

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