Are we destined to fail under the Sustainable Development Goals? One might question how such a broad series of aspirational goals and targets can accomplish what many cannot even imagine. For example, the third proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) endeavors to make health and well-being a reality for all of the world's citizens. Yet, the world has lived with health disparities for generations. It seems logical to ask, why now? And, more importantly, how?
Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the predecessor to the SDGs, the international community made historic progress in improving health. This was not by chance, but through strategic planning toward ambitious yet achievable targets, and working backward from established deadlines. The result of this unprecedented approach has reaped impressive returns to the global community.
During the 15-year period of the MDGs, progress was made across a broad spectrum of health efforts. Achievements made against malaria targets stand among the most impressive feats in public health, with more than 6.2 million lives saved globally between 2000 and 2015, and malaria deaths in children under five years old reduced by almost 70 percent in Africa. In the 22 countries with the highest number of pregnant women living with HIV, there has been a 43 percent decline in new HIV infections among children between 2009 and 2013 -- with fewer than 200,000 infections now occurring. Investment in a multitude of ambitious, large-scale health initiatives -- such as vaccination programs and distribution of mosquito nets to protect against malaria -- saved the lives of more than 34 million children.
These unprecedented achievements demonstrate not only humanitarian gains, but also extraordinary financial gains of a healthy global community. According to a new analysis published in the medical journal, The Lancet, the lives of these 34 million children translate to an estimated return of more than $3.8 trillion to economies in the developing world. Our investments in health are paying off in every sense of the word.
With this extraordinary success, the world is now on the verge of bringing a complete end to child and maternal deaths -- everywhere -- leaving no one behind. We are committing to ending diseases such as malaria, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, all in the next 15 years.
Doing this will require continuing and expanding the unprecedented partnerships that have gotten us this far -- civil society, philanthropy, the private sector, and crucially, sustained political leadership from developing countries and donor countries -- all working as an alliance under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General and his Every Woman Every Child movement.
Funding will be critical. While we will need our existing champions of health financing, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the World Bank, the Global Fund, UNITAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- among others -- to continue their valuable contributions, the financial landscape is changing. As developing countries' economies grow, we will have the opportunity to explore new ways of tapping into the resources of these expanding economies. We must push toward innovative and collaborative financing that enable private investors to enter into the health sector, such as through the newly announced partnership between the World Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which seeks to bring up to $1 billion of private capital to public health.
While our efforts in the health sector clearly meet the bar of "what's working," we cannot shy away from the most difficult challenges. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa demonstrated how weak health systems, and a lack of community health workers, can devastate economies and place the whole world at risk. We were all grotesquely unprepared and disorganized, and cannot allow this to happen again.
Finally, almost 60 percent of all preventable child deaths are in areas suffering from conflict or post-conflict. If the health targets of the new global goals are to be achieved, we must all come together to help those living in such areas -- looking beyond traditional health partners and working closely with the institutions best suited to deal with conflict and peace-building efforts.
Unlike any other moment in history, we stand positioned to make good on fulfilling our promises of seeing a healthier and more equitable world. The cumulative gains across the health landscape under the MDG-era position the global community within arms-reach of ending many of the world's most crippling epidemics and ending all preventable child and maternal deaths by 2030. Health is a key driver of any sustainable-development agenda, and our collective success depends on improving the health and wellbeing of all citizens. Let's use the new global goals to unlock the remaining potential of millions of children waiting to thrive.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 3.