In September 2019, at the United Nations General Assembly 74th Session, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said:
“Our vision is not health for some; it’s not health for most; It’s health for all.“
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development, and therefore reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as SDG 3. The SDGs are a framework which was established in 2015 by the UN General Assembly with the mission to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030.
Gold is a precious metal which plays significant role in contributing to SDG 3. It is used in a number of unique and valuable healthcare applications. It is a critical material in many medical diagnostics, and is of increasing interest to companies developing innovative new ways to treat disease.
In 2020, the World Gold Council published a report Gold Mining’s Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which highlighted how gold miners contribute to 15 out of the 17 goals.
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This follow up paper focuses on SDG 3 from both a gold mining perspective but also how gold the metal is making a contribution.
In early 2020 we saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which has since evolved into a global health crisis, turning the lives of billions of people upside down. But it is not only the health implications that have affected us, the economies of many countries have been destabilised with serious knock-on effects to jobs and livelihoods in every corner of the globe.
Amongst many other things, this has challenged the progress being made on healthcare provision in many areas, particularly developing countries, as resources and expertise have been diverted into responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely that these impacts will be with us all for decades to come.
Many World Gold Council Members operate in regions which are disproportionately impacted by healthcare challenges. As we described in Gold Mining’s Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, these companies often find themselves on the frontline when it comes to responding to health crises.
They offer considerable support to their employees and their families and the wider community members through the provision of modern healthcare facilities, therapeutic and diagnostic services and educational programmes.
Sometimes localised, mine-supported, healthcare projects can evolve regionally or even countrywide, helping to improve the well-being of a much wider section of society. For example, in Africa, many mining companies have been at the forefront of the response to public health emergencies such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and Ebola.
SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Target 3.b: Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries
Target 3.d: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks
Target 3.3: By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
Target 3.2: By 2030, end preventable deaths of new-borns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under 5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births
Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
A recent report published by the UN laid out, in stark terms, the impact COVID-19 is having on progress towards meeting the SDGs.
Progress towards meeting Goal 3 has been hit particularly hard by set-backs, with recent advances across a number of the targets being eroded as the pandemic has taken hold.
This includes the reversal of multiple years of progress in reducing maternal and child deaths, the interruption of childhood immunisation efforts globally and the potential for COVID-related disruptions to cause spikes in death and illness from communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. In addition to these concerns, of course, have been added the differences in access to COVID-19 vaccines between the developed world and developing countries.
These distressing reports make the efforts of the gold mining sector even more important in some of the world’s most remote communities. Gold miners are often among the largest employers and tax payers in their host countries, and therefore their support during times of crises is significant and invaluable.
Company-backed programmes or partnerships for malaria prevention, food security and improved infant health all bring considerable benefits into local mining communities and increase their resilience. And, of course, the precious material they mine is also at the forefront of the fight in the diagnostic tools and cutting-edge technologies that will help to improve lives around the world in the future.