Oceans are warming. Glacial and alpine ice are melting. Human thinking is shrouded by dust clouds. Heat waves magnify the effects. Floods are trailed by disease clusters. But now, a mosquito-borne infection is posing a real threat to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The rapid rise of the Zika virus is turning into a full-on global health crisis.
The SDGs are heralded as the most intricate social progression in UN history, where every country can benefit from continual, wide-ranging and sustainable economic growth and progress, accompanied by the obliteration of poverty, hunger and disease. This is a pretty picture that the ascension of the Zika virus has begun to blemish.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there could be up to 4 million cases of the Zika virus, and, with high global emissions coupled with fast population growth, the number of people exposed to the Zika virus could double to as many as 8 billion or 9 billion by the end of the century.
Moreover, the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) deputy director, Dr. Anne Schuchat, explains that in the continental US, there have been people reportedly infected with the virus, including 69 pregnant women.
At the same time, the Zika virus places the lives of mothers, fetuses and newborns at a higher risk in countries where maternal, prenatal and infant health are neglected and underfunded.
In the northeast of Brazil, where 135 million people have neither running water nor access to sewage systems, and where garbage collection is nonexistent, we have witnessed a dramatic rise in the spread of the Zika virus, with an unparalleled rise in the number of children born with unusually small heads.
New information confirms that the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico diagnosis 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. This means that other Caribbean islands stand prone to a widespread transmission of the Zika virus, as Caribbean states are cemented by severe limited health care and deteriorating health care systems. Bared in tropical heat that is favorable to the breeding of the mosquito that allegedly produces the virus, more cases of the virus are expected to rise in the Caribbean.
Experts blame the Zika outbreak on the massive wave of urbanization, Malthusian population growth and international travel. But the United States’ blatant disregard for social organizations and abortion rights, the gutting of social programs, and the upholding of capitalistic hegemony in health care disputes must also be taken into consideration.
The capitalistic notion on which the UN’s SDGs are founded is leading to discrimination and unequal concentration of wealth and power, especially where health care is concerned.
So how can the UN claim its 17 SDGs are a lifeline to poverty and disease when the basic needs of humanity are derailed by a ruling elite and a corporate oligarchy that cares only for profit? Why is there no money to protect mothers, the extreme poor, infants and others from the tragic dangers of the Zika virus, when there is an estimated $2-3 trillion a year at the UN’s disposal for pursuing these SDGs?
Simply put, the UN cares more about pumping billions into nuclear armaments and scientific and technological discoveries, than addressing the economic and social inequities which exacerbate public health crises.
It is clear that if obliterating poverty, hunger and disease is a goal of the UN, it must stop organizing health care and treating epidemics along class and racial lines. It must provide a guideline for pharmaceutical companies to follow in the manufacturing and sale of vaccines for contagious diseases, to avoid turning health crises into a capitalistic ventures.