The SDGs in the Coronavirus Era: Do they still matter?

What a start to 2020 it has been. When I wrote January’s post on SDG 3: Good-Health and Well Being, a mere 100 days ago, my latest article in AM&A‘s series on LIVING THE SDGs,  I never would have imagined that just three months later we’d all be dealing with the largest global crisis since World War II. COVID19 is 2020.

For AM&A, the world’s shared pandemic has magnified just why we do what we do – working with leaders around the world to help them ensure they are having a positive, meaningful impact….especially in times of crisis .

As a consultancy firm working in tourism & development, many of our clients, friends and colleagues are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties at the moment. Over and above the very real health crisis there is the economic crisis. Together these are unleashing fears of a mental health crisis – people frightened as they face unemployment, bankruptcy, illness, shouldering responsibilities too heavy to bear. Day in, day out, a sometimes overwhelming emotional stimulus of bad news and heartbreak. This is where AM&A has, without hesitation, stepped up to be a sponge for the anxieties of others, and a ‘behind the velvet curtain’ partner to help others find the eye of the storm, feel safe, and focus forward.

I take immense pride in the work we do at AM&A, but also in the people with whom I’m able to work. the AM&A team is compassionate, hopeful, forgiving – qualities that can be difficult to come by, particularly in times like these. The AM&A mentality keeps me grounded, focused, thankful, and prepared for whatever we need to tackle in the day ahead. It can be hard, it hurts, but we are in if the for long run. It is a duty we embrace.

For myself, life since COVID-19 has become more… complicated. My kids are out of school, my husband is working at home, and I still have a full-time job to fit in around the new daily chaos. To be honest, I feel stretched in multiple directions, all day long. Guilt and feelings of inadequacy seem to be trending words for parents at the moment, so I at least know I’m not alone. But it’s hard. I’m doing my best, but also not doing enough, and that just has to be okay right now. So many people have it much harder at the moment, and despite the growing greys on my head, I know we’ll get through this.

This post was originally planned to focus on SDG 5: Gender Equality. I had done my preliminary research and was writing the piece. But then COVID-19 hit, and really began to take a toll on the world.

While updating the team on my progress on the original article, Anita challenged me as to why I was still doing the piece. She was meaning to provoke: “With COVID19 as a global priority, do the Sustainable Development Goals still matter?”

So many people were questioning if COVID19 allowed space, logic, for the SDGs to be a priority. Every time I got a little further in my response, the crisis seemed to escalate two-fold, the impact more devastating. But in this, the answer became more and more clear.

Anita (Anita Mendiratta, the head and AM in AM&A) knew exactly why she was asking me this question. The answer had to be YES – SDGs still matter, even more now actually. But people needed to really ‘get’ why.

These are my thoughts…

Our Shared COVID19 World

The world changed overnight. Yesterday we were laughing with friends at the pub. Celebrating birthdays, weddings, meeting with colleagues and opening up our minds at the annual conference. Yesterday we were attending sports games, cheering on our favourite players, celebrating big wins and commiserating heartbreaking losses. Yesterday we were having date nights at the theatre, dining out at our favourite restaurant, and shopping at our local mall. Yesterday the kids were in school, the baby was at nursery, and we worked our 9-5 with limited distractions.

Yesterday our grandparents were well, our GP and hospitals were there when we needed them, and we didn’t worry about giving out big hugs. Yesterday we were counting down to our next holiday, jumping on the train to work, pricing flights for a last-minute weekend break. Yesterday we had job security, positive forecasts, unlimited growth. The world changed overnight, and today we live in a new reality.

Today we stay home, to keep our neighbors safe. We send emoji hugs and hearts to our friends and family facing incredibly challenging circumstances. We watch as our communities band together, motivated to help the vulnerable and lift spirits. Today we plan virtual coffee dates, game nights, and drink with friends – keeping our social needs fulfilled, regardless of physical limitations.

Today we look to those key workers, keeping our society moving and safe, with newfound admiration and respect. The teachers navigating virtual classrooms, the health care workers healing the sick, the grocery store workers keeping shelves full of food, and the police officers ensuring that our country is safe and secure.  Today may be a different world than yesterday, but it is also full of hope.

In this time of growing uncertainty, is it still imperative that we focus on sustainable development? Should we take a pause, or do we continue to do our part to achieve the SDGs by 2030?

There is no doubt that the mission today seems more difficult: inequalities, poverty, and hunger have become more visible, no matter where in the world we live. But in this, there is opportunity, perhaps more than ever. A reset button for the global society to identify, plan, and begin recovery with sustainable development at its heart.

Why the SDGs Matter NOW

Has there ever been a word as misunderstood as ‘sustainability’? I know many people who still think of recycling or green initiatives when they hear the term, probably an unintended consequence of lumping sustainability in with anything eco-positive.

But in these difficult times, I think sustainability has become more clear, more tangible, than ever. Over the last month we’ve watched as the things we take for granted have become dismantled, the effect far-reaching. Suddenly our food, health, economic, and industrial systems have been laid bare. Basic resources have become more precious. Parts of our society, people of our society, who we never took a second glance at, have become integral pieces for moving forward. For surviving. For healing.

Some of these issues have been more psychological than absolute, but if you’ve been in any area of the world affected by COVID-19, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  A sustainable society has good health, equality across socio-economic groups and genders, no poverty, decent work and economic growth. These are all Sustainable Development Goals but they are also all major issues we are currently dealing with as a global society in ways that we weren’t yesterday.

Now that the majority of us find ourselves living in a new reality of self-isolation – the social, cultural, and economic sides of sustainability are teaching us a lesson. It is ALL important. When any piece, any SDG, is missing – our society can no longer function in a sustainable way.

We must take this time to identify the gaps, regroup, reconnect, and look at ways that when recovery comes – we are ready to lead with the Sustainable Development Goals at the helm.

COVID-19 is Highlighting the Issues

As many countries enter lock-down, or have been dealing with the new reality for weeks already, something has really struck me. Friends are discussing the latest Netflix binge on social media or asking for book recommendations,  neighbors are stocking up on enough food to realistically last them months, and I’ve been complaining (and feeling absolutely exhausted) because I need to juggle my two children at home with work and keeping the house in a livable state. I’m not discounting the real problems we have, there are many serious concerns for all people in the world at the moment, but for those of us able to work through them at home with virtual meetings, the latest salacious Netflix documentary, and all the carbs we can digest – we are truly blessed.

I’ve been listening to some fascinating stories on NPR (National Public Radio) this week covering India’s lock-down and quarantine measures throughout Africa and how it is affecting citizens in these countries. It was a lightbulb moment for me. Not because I learned something new necessarily, but because it confirmed to me why the SDGs matter even more today than they did yesterday.

For those already living in poverty, they are now faced with food shortages, unemployment, and fines or even beatings for being on the streets – a problem when you have no safe place to go to. Children who only get a meal when they go to school, are now home with parents who have no idea how they’ll feed them. Healthcare systems that were already suffering with a lack of trained professionals, unsanitary conditions, and ill-equipped facilities are now faced with a pandemic of unknown trajectory, severity and cure.

When we discussed Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being and Goal 4: Quality Education, we looked at many areas of the world where these issues are literally life and death barriers. Now, we see them recognisable in our own communities, but for those who were struggling before – the situation is now dire.

The clock on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is still ticking. We may have been put on a pause, but we need to be ready when the world opens up once again. We can’t waste time.

But for individuals, like you and me, how can we continue to change the world when we can’t even leave our homes? I decided to take a look at my own social network and see what they are doing to help.  I hope these ideas inspire you to do something similar in your community, or spark an idea for a project of your own. Technology is at our fingertips, our communities are waiting in our local Facebook groups, help is needed and we can work together for tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us.

Five Ways Individuals Can Change the World: Coronavirus Edition

1. Follow WHO and Government Guidance

If you’ve been ordered to self-isolate, if you have underlying health conditions or family members in your household who are vulnerable, stay home. Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being should be a priority for each one of us at the moment.  By following official advice, not only do you stay healthy, but you protect the health of others in your community. This is by far the most important way you can help the world at the moment. If you risk your own health, you can’t help others. First-responder 101.

(AM&A put together a handy infographic on COVID-19 and what you should know, including the most useful resources for getting up-to-date information. While so much has changed with COVID19, some basic principles remain the same. You can find the full infographic here.)

corona tips

2. Find Creative Ways to Use Your Talents

I’ve been in total awe of friends, family, and community members who have taken their talents or hobbies and put them to use in ingenious ways. From sewing masks for grocery store workers to crafting scrubs for local nurses, you may be able to make a difference in a big way using skills you already have.

Sewing is just an example, of course. I have a friend who is offering free social media audits to local businesses and a former classmate who has offered legal advice for local employers to help them retain employees through the crisis.

Not only will the recipients be extremely grateful, but it can also be a great way to pass the time if you are in an area that is requiring non-essential residents to stay home.

The masks below are a great example, made by the mother (who I adore) of a dear friend in their home state of New York.

masks covid diy

 3. Help the Vulnerable

For those of us without underlying conditions or living with vulnerable people in our household, there is a great need to get essential supplies to those unable to do so for themselves. In the UK, there was a nation-wide call for volunteers, 750,000 have already responded to help the efforts. But before the government started officially pooling together human resource, communities across the UK began creating Coronavirus response groups.

In times like these, it is amazing to see that for many the natural response is to ask, how can I help? Probability is high that if you live in an affected area, a community group has already started mobilising on Facebook. Whether you pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, drive them to an important doctor’s appointment, or simply give someone who is feeling lonely a call to say hello – there has never been a more opportune time to see what a difference such a small act of kindness can make.

Any volunteering efforts of this nature should follow government guidelines. In the UK, helping the vulnerable is a valid reason to leave your home as long as precautions are taken. Maintain physical (social) distancing rules whenever possible, wash your hands regularly, and avoid entering anyone’s home.

If you are unable to leave your house because you are isolating or vulnerable yourself, there may be ways that you can help online or on the phone. Check with your local groups and charities to see what they require. Most organisations who are still running at the moment need all the help they can get.

The picture below was taken by Grace of AM&A. After a shop in her village closed its doors, they offered their food to vulnerable people in the area. Grace dropped off care packages to her grandparents and other elderly neighbors she knew. You can see by their smiles that such a simple act of kindness made a tremendous impact to their day.

elderly coronavirus

4. Help Food Banks

Many countries currently on lock-down or stay-at-home orders have also initiated rations on certain grocery items. Essentials like bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper are limited to one or two items per customer to ensure availability for all. While this is great in theory, many of those items haven’t returned to the shelves.

For low-income workers who aren’t able to bulk up their grocery shops to last an entire week and for those who are unemployed or homeless, the situation is especially difficult. Food banks all over the world have seen a huge increase in demand for their services, and this was before COVID-19. While we don’t yet know the full extent of damage that has been caused, it is a healthy assumption that things are not going well, particularly for those who were under or near the poverty line before the crisis hit.

Due to rations in place, food banks aren’t able to acquire the stock required to feed their local communities. For those who can, the demand and need for food from local families, is more pressing than ever.

There are two main ways you can help your local food bank so that they can keep feeding the hungry.

1. Add extra tinned/non-perishable items to your next shop. Tinned vegetables and meat, instant mashed potatoes, rice, and long-life milk are always needed. Find a drop-off point for your local organisation, these are usually locations where no face-to-face contact is necessary. (My local food bank has boxes at the grocery store where you can leave the items.)

2. Donate. Many organisations are running low on resources due to the increase in demand. Donations can help them continue to give food to those who need it, offer hot meals to the community, and provide essentials for families faced with going without. Donations do not need to be large to make a difference, five dollars can cover a box of cereal for two families. That could translate to 4 children having breakfast every morning for a week.

The image below shows an example from my community food bank on the types of food donations that are especially helpful.

food bank donations


5. Encourage Good Mental Health

This has been a steep learning curve for global society. Many of us no longer have the freedom to see our family on a whim, celebrate life’s big moments how we normally would, or simply grab that weekly coffee with a friend. Many of us are learning to work from home for the first time, which can be challenging on its own, but is made all the more complicated by having spouses, children, and big emotions to deal with on top of it. Many of us are scared for our health, for our jobs, for our loved ones, and for the future. THAT IS OKAY.

If there has ever been a moment to take things day by day, this is it. Be easy on yourself and prioritise your mental health. If you feel like you are in a good place, and that you have the mental capacity to do more, then reach out to others and check in.

A friend and I usually meet once a week for coffee, it is an important time for both of us to unload and reconnect, now we have moved it to Skype. While a huge hug would be preferable, the virtual connection still fills the necessary void. Texting is great, but if you are able to check in on your loved ones “face-to-face” it really can make a difference. You never know how someone is dealing with their life changing overnight, that call could be what gets them through another day.

You can also encourage good mental health in strangers. Making someone smile after a stressful day can do wonders. Thank the woman at the till who rings up your groceries. Let your delivery guy know, even if he needs to stand six feet away, that you appreciate him. Use empathy, even when it is difficult. You may think that a friend is overreacting to the state of the world, but respond in kindness, in understanding.

Many households across the world have started putting up rainbows in their windows. It is mainly targeted at children confined to short walks around the neighborhood, a kind of rainbow treasure hunt, but I can guarantee people of all ages can’t help but light up at such a simple, but beautiful, gesture.

The photo below shows off the amazing efforts of Grace’s nieces and nephews.


Encouraging good mental health in ourselves and others may seem an odd suggestion for changing the world. But we will be unable to meet the Global Goals, we will be unable to proactively take those small steps to create big change, if we are not taking care of our emotional health, and of those closest to us. Ask for help if you need it and reach out to those around you, even the ones who seem strong.

 I need to find the good. I need to do something. I need goals to reach towards. I knew that the SDGs still mattered in the Coronavirus era, just as Anita did when she posed the question. However, the why evolved from the SDGs ‘are still important’ to ‘they have never been more important’.

There is much sadness and fear in the world right now, but we must also look at the gift we’ve been given. While today looks nothing like yesterday, we can learn from today to build a better tomorrow. The SDGs matter more than ever. We must use the framework going forward, not as a tick box exercise, but as a defining, strengthened architectural plan for building a more sustainable world in the post-Corona chapter. 

All of us at AM&A wish you and your loved ones good health, in all the ways that matter. Stay in, stay safe, stay hopeful. The road in front of us may seem uncertain, but together we will navigate through, stronger than ever. I’m so grateful you are on this journey with me. Stay safe.


I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world.  You can find out more about the SDGs here.

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

Goal 4: Quality Education

SDG #4 is all about quality education. At AM&A it is a goal that touches us in different ways, and is deeply important to each of us.

Anita Mendiratta, the head of AM&A, has a deep affection for children, particularly those who are missing out on an education simply because of circumstances – poverty and/or crisis robbing them of food to eat, a safe place to call home, or a permanent community. On the occasion of her 50th Birthday a couple of years back her partner founded The Anita Mendiratta Foundation, which has supporting children after crisis as a key objective.

Grace is a teacher by training, having spent the decade before joining AM&A shaping young minds through physical education. She continues to advocate for education through sport as a way to bridge differences and reach the unreachable. 

As for myself,  I didn’t know anyone when I was growing up who had a higher education, at least within my immediate circle. From the moment I was born, whispers of a college education filled my ears. My parents knew it would mean a different life for me than they had, and I was encouraged constantly growing up that I could get a college degree and reach all my dreams if I worked hard enough.

When I graduated from University, it wasn’t just a momentous day in my life, it was an accomplishment for everyone who encouraged me, supported me, and believed in me leading up to that day. A diploma didn’t give me instant success and make me extremely wealthy, sorry mom, but it did provide a stepping stone to experiencing the world, broadening my horizons, and most importantly – providing access to opportunities that I otherwise would’ve never had. 

Now, as a mother, my focus is on the importance of education in the early years. I see on a daily basis how important that foundation is for a child to thrive. While my oldest has never had any issues academically, my son requires adjustment and an education system that caters to all abilities and learning styles. Thankfully that privilege, in the UK, is a right guaranteed by law. 

Education is the cornerstone of society. It breaks cyclical poverty, improves economies, strengthens communities, and reduces inequality. Yet, there are currently 265 million children not in school. 22% of those are primary aged. 

I grew up in a country where a quality education was in my reach. My kids are growing up in a country where they’ll never even need to think about it. It is so easy to take this for granted.

But with over 600 million children worldwide who lack basic proficiency in reading and math – we are all getting a failing grade.


For millions of children around the world, quality education is out of reach. A lack of trained teachers, poor living conditions at home and at school, and huge inequalities in rural communities, and increasingly human displacement,  all contribute to the problem. 

Goal 4, Quality Education, aims to ensure ‘inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all’. 

While primary and secondary school children are obviously a focus, Goal 4 also aims to make vocational, technical, and higher education accessible for all women and men. This includes increasing the number of scholarships available to low-income prospective students, training more teachers, and improving infrastructure so that everyone has a safe place to learn. 

For children and adults alike, females and the disabled are at a greater risk of not having access to a quality education. Ensuring gender equality, and accessibility, is paramount for achieving goal 4. 

When everyone has access to a quality education, their community benefits, their country benefits, the world benefits.

Education is a proven tool for sustainable development.

With an improved quality of life, a decrease in families living in poverty, and securing a successful future for generations to come, education is the key to positive change. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful ways we can change the world for the better – for everyone.

How can Goal 4: Quality Education be reached?

Significant progress has been made since 2000. The enrolment rate in developing nations is now at 91 percent, the number of children out of school has dropped by half, and more girls than ever in history are in school. However, poverty and armed conflict continue to be an enormous barrier –  and children in the poorest households are four times more likely to be out of school. 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region where poverty affects a large percentage of the population, primary school enrolment has increased from 52% in 1990 to 78% in 2012. While we should celebrate the progress, 22% of children in the region are still being left behind. 

If we take a look at the targets set for SDG4, there are clear ways that we can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education for all. 

  • Free primary and secondary education.
  • Equal access to pre-primary education.
  • Equal access to vocational, technical, and higher education.
  • Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success.
  • Eliminate all discrimination in education.
  • Universal literacy and numeracy.
  • Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools.
  • Increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries. 

If everyone has access to quality education, we all benefit. SDG4 is also directly tied with many of the other Sustainable Development Goals such as Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, and Goal 5: Gender Equality. By achieving SDG4, we would be well on our way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.

5 Ways we can Contribute to SDG 4 as Individuals

While some of the goals can feel too big to tackle all on our own, education is something that each of us can quite easily make a difference with – no matter where we live. Whether through advocacy, policy, or direct involvement, there are so many ways that you can contribute to SDG4 in your local community.

Here are five ideas for individuals who want to contribute to Quality Education in their own community.


Whether you live in New York City or Mumbai, there are children who don’t have the support they need to succeed. Due to unstable home environments, living in an underfunded area, or simply not having access to additional support outside of the classroom, tutoring can help bridge the gap for those who need some extra help. Research has shown that tutoring, whether solely academic or in a more mentoring capacity, can make a huge impact on confidence, aspirations, and academic engagement.

In the UK, Action Tutoring is a charity that connects tutors with disadvantaged pupils to further their education, employment or training.  If you are located elsewhere, there are similar programs waiting for people who are willing to dedicate some of their time to make a big difference in the lives of students.


Skillsharing is the latest growing movement in the peer-to-peer marketplace. There are now thousands of community groups, dedicated websites, and apps that connect learners and enable them to ‘trade’ skills for free. 

For example: If you are a fluent French speaker, but have always wanted to learn how to knit, a skillsharing platform would connect you with a knitter who wants to learn French. This is a terrific way not only to further your own education, but help somebody else in your community with theirs as well. 

The peer-to-peer lessons could make a bigger difference than you think. Teaching someone how to change the oil in their car or providing basic English grammar lessons can free up limited funds or even help somebody get a job. What skills do you have that could help someone else succeed? 


As children get to the later years of primary school, and into secondary school, safe-guarding and child protection becomes a bigger issue. When parents are working, and young people are left on their own after school, the impact of a lack of structure and exposure to negative influences can be detrimental to their future. 

After-school programs provide a secure, safe place for young people to learn new skills, meet new friends, improve confidence, and establish trusted relationships with adults. Importantly, they also help keep kids focused on school and stay out of trouble. 

A research study in the US found that after-school programs improved academic performance, behaviour in the classroom, reduced drug use and criminal behaviour, and saved parents 8 days of work a year that they otherwise would’ve missed. 

For disadvantaged youth in particular, after-school programs can be financially out-of-reach. This provides an opportunity for individuals to consider sponsoring spaces for students in your local area. Many neighborhoods have youth clubs that would be happy to connect with you – either in a volunteering or donor capacity. 


One thing we don’t often think about when it comes to a quality education is quality nutrition. But if you go back and read SDG2: Zero Hunger, we learned that kids who go to school hungry aren’t able to effectively learn or retain information in the classroom. 

A shocking 1.8 million kids in the UK alone are at risk of hunger. While the numbers in developing countries are higher, it is important to realise that children in your own community could also use your help. 

There are organisations already working to make sure that every child has the fuel they need to succeed. Magic Breakfast is a fantastic UK charity that currently feeds over 48,000 children breakfast before school. Due to the increased hunger during school holidays, the charity has also started a  ‘holiday hunger’ scheme called Magic Breakfast 365 for some of London’s most disadvantaged youth. 

You can get involved in these kinds of initiatives in a variety of ways. Encourage your workplace to invest through corporate sponsorship, write to your local representatives about the importance of nutrition for your country’s schoolchildren, or fundraise for a charity for your birthday or special event. 

No child should go to school hungry. By ensuring that quality nutrition is available for all – quality education will have a much higher chance of success. 


Children in the UK from the poorest backgrounds typically start school 19 months behind their peers – this amounts to 175,000 five-year olds in the UK every year.  Those children are five times more likely to fail their exams at age 11, four times more likely to struggle with reading as adults, and twice as likely to be unemployed by 34. 

It seems unacceptable that we can identify the students who begin school behind their peers, yet seem unable to close the gap before they become adults. Literacy is the solution, but if schools don’t have the resources to support these students, and parents don’t have the time or skills, we need to tackle literacy another way. 

The National Literacy Trust and The Children’s Literacy Charity are two organisations in the UK who work to close the literacy gap for disadvantaged children.  They need tutors and volunteers to spend time reading with and supporting kids around the country.

Many students who have been identified in their early years have gone on to higher education and successful careers. We must never forget: Literacy can be a magic wand and make all the difference in providing children with a quality education. 

SDG4, Quality Education, is one to which we all can easily contribute to. Whether through a local organisation or school, or simply spending some extra time with children you already know, small acts can easily make a big difference in their lives and future.

As one of our global community’s great leaders once said, with conviction and compassion:


Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world.  You can find out more about the SDGs here.

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Welcome to 2020: a new decade, a new year, and the perfect starting point for Goal 3. It’s time for New Year’s Resolutions.

Across the globe, approximately 55% of admitted new years resolutions will be health related: Lose weight. Eat more green things. Exercise more – We all want to be healthier because quite simply, good health often translates to a better (and longer) future.

Here at AM&A we are back in ‘the office’, goals and new motivation in tow. Anita is working to establish a well-being routine when ongoing travels across geo- and time-zones allow for no food & exercise routine. Swimming factors strongly. Grace is aiming to run 450 miles in 2020, an enthusiastic goal to beat last year’s incredible 400. As a business, we want to look at how we can better contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. As we all work remotely, energy and consumption are already at a minimum so we’ll look at the way we approach projects and advise clients, as well as dedicating time specifically towards lifting up others in ways that contribute to the SDGs.

After a heavy 2019, my 2020 goal is simply to be kinder to myself – mentally and physically.

Thinking of this time of year, a time when wellness commitments are pledged more firmly than any other time of the year, all are in some way related to SDG #3: Good Health and Well-being. Yet at a universal level it is not something all can fulfill.  If I need a health professional, I have access to one of the world’s best healthcare systems for any tests, medicine, or mental care I need. (All at no cost or highly subsidised I should add. )  If I need to exercise, I have access and the means to attend a local gym. If I need more healthy food, I can just go and fill up my online cart and have it delivered by tomorrow. Even in health, something the healthy always take for granted, I can see that I am incredibly lucky for the life circumstances I was born into. My good fortune is not, however, the fortune of all.

Good health and well-being is a universal human need – and right. Unfortunately, we are failing to sufficiently provide it to people all over the globe – some in our own backyards. Encompassing everything from disease prevention to reproductive health to road safety, Goal 3 covers a wide range of issues. While the broadness of Good Health and Well-Being can seem overwhelming, it also provides us as individuals a plethora of opportunities to contribute to a healthier and more positive world. And to recognise our ability to have what we have to do so.

Let’s get started!

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being: What is it?

The main purpose of Goal 3 is to ensure proper good health for ALL people worldwide by 2030. This includes reducing maternal mortality, ending the preventable deaths of children under 5, ending outbreaks of common diseases such as Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Malaria, reducing deaths and injuries from road accidents, and increasing access to sexual and mental health care. 

Half of the world currently has no access to essential health services. 1 out of 2. I don’t know about you, but that one got me. 800 million people spend over 10% of their incomes on health care, and 100 million of those have been pushed into extreme poverty due to health care expenses. (World Health Organisation) We need good health to survive, ensuring that health shouldn’t be a detriment to anyone’s life. 

“Without health care, how can children reach their full potential? And without a healthy, productive population, how can societies realize their aspirations? Universal health coverage can help level the playing field for children today, in turn helping them break intergenerational cycles of poverty and poor health tomorrow.” 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake


Just as we discovered in Goal 1: No Poverty and Goal 2: No Hunger, global inequalities are one of the biggest issues when it comes to the progress of not only Goal 3 but the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole. There are massive disparities when it comes to accessing basic health care, treating easily curable and noncommunicable diseases, and maternal health between the Global North and Global South. (The North-South divide is a socio-economic division between the world’s higher income countries such as the United States, Canada, member states of the EU and Australia and the lower income countries found across Africa, South America, and developing Asia.)  As an example, every year more than 6 million children die before their 5th birthday. 4 out of 5 of them live in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. 

The inequalities happen within the Global North as well, particularly within low-income areas resided in by people of colour and/or disadvantaged backgrounds. When it comes to infant mortality for example, Canadians have an average rate of 5 out of 1,000 live births. However, in Nunavut, a largely indigenous populated region of Canada, that number jumps to 16 – over three times the amount of infant deaths due to lack of accessible maternal healthcare. 

Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being, aims to target and eliminate some of the world’s most pressing healthcare issues such as:

  • Diseases
    • AIDS causes the second most deaths to teens, and is particularly a concern for women. HIV is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide. HIV is a preventable disease. While it is not yet curable, two-thirds of new infections could be eliminated through access to HIV prevention strategies and treatments. 
    • Of the 36.9 million people living with AIDS, Tuberculosis is responsible for one in three AIDS-related deaths. Tuberculosis is both curable and preventable with access to the vaccine. 
  • Maternal Health
    • Mothers in developed regions are 14 times more likely to survive childbirth than those living in developing regions. 
    • There are currently not enough programmes to deal with the demand for family planning and sexual education in developing regions.
    • Only half of women are receiving the care they need when pregnant in developing countries. 

Ensuring that people are healthy is integral for a society to function. In poor and rich countries alike, health emergencies can destroy lives financially. For every $1 billion invested in immunization coverage, one million children are saved.  We still have so far to go, but the goal to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being, for all ages, for all people – is achievable. We’ve made huge strides over the last few decades, and the numbers show that we can win this fight. 

Progress of Goal 3 in the World Today

The good news? People are healthier and living longer than ever, all over the world. Since 1990, child mortality has been cut in half.  Life expectancy had increased dramatically. There have been huge gains with HIV and deaths from Malaria have halved. The Millenium Development Goals had a huge focus on health, and it was undoubtedly their greatest success and legacy. 

Measles is a terrific example of the progress the global community has made on health. For children under five, particularly those who are impoverished, measles is deadly. In 1980, over 2.6 million people died from measles. By 2014, the number of deaths had dropped to 76,000. Measles is one of the top vaccine-preventable deaths in the world, and the rise of global vaccination programs has made a tremendous impact. Still, the disease affects over 200 million people every year – almost all live within developing countries in Africa and Asia. The vaccine requires two doses, and global coverage for both is only at 67%. Goal 3 has a target to end epidemics of preventable diseases, and while progress is incredible, 76,000 people dying every year is still way too high. 

In the spirit of working in partnerships for the goals (Goal 17), progress isn’t just coming from international organisations like UNICEF and WHO. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a shining example of how philanthropy can change the world. The foundation works under the belief that every life has equal value. By working to improve people’s health, eliminate hunger, and get out of extreme poverty – The Gates Foundation has helped by providing vaccines, starting women’s health programmes and set-up nutritional programmes for children. The foundation has awarded over $50.1 Billion in grants since 2006 and has changed countless lives across 138 countries. 

You, me, every individual on the planet can also do our part to contribute to Goal 3. Here are five ideas to help improve health and well-being in your community and the world. 

5 Ways we can Contribute to SDG 3 as Individuals

1. Be An Example To Others

Start with the children in your life: your own, your nieces, nephews, godchildren. Show them what it means to live a healthy life, through your own actions. Eating healthy, exercising and staying active – these things can be learned by example. Next time you are hanging out with a small person for the day, choose an activity outside instead of in. Go for fresh fruit smoothies instead of fast food. Healthy doesn’t equal boring. The youngest generation is looking up to the adults in their lives, watching and taking notes. You can do your part to add positive influence, if even for a day. 

Work is another place where you can be a positive example, particularly if you work in a traditional 9-5 environment. Start exercise classes after-work (or convince the boss to bring someone in), schedule weekly or monthly themed lunches around healthy themes, find ways to incorporate team activities that force you to get active. Not only are these ideas all great for team health, they’ll provide a wonderful opportunity to relax and get to know the people you work with better. 

2. Go Green

Local parks and green space are so important for community health. Children having access to playgrounds and sports fields, pathways where neighbors can walk their dogs, pond-side benches for retired people in the community to enjoy fresh air. Take advantage of these places in your community. 

Most community run green spaces allow locals to volunteer with gardening, cleaning up trash, or hosting events. Get involved and help guarantee the future of these important spaces. We have a small community garden next door to our home. Every flower, every hole dug, every new hopscotch addition is contributed by someone living in the community. It makes me happy, I assume it makes others happy too. Happiness is contagious.

If your community is lacking in green space and desirable parks, see point 3 below.

3. Get (Politically) Active

We can only do so much as individuals to affect things at a higher government level. The good news is that those in government, in most countries, work for you. If you don’t have a local park in your community, ask for one. Chances are that other families would love the opportunity to join with you. If the nearest Emergency Room is 30 minutes away, nobody is going to build one until enough people stand up and ask for it. Start a petition, people make them because when done effectively, they can work. Be the voice, and help create a healthier community using it. 

Another way to contribute to SDG3 is to find out how your country is contributing to The Global Fund. The Global Fund is an international organisation working to end AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as epidemics. Programs are run in over 100 countries, and they invest over 4 Billion USD a year in partnership with governments, companies, and even individuals. Since only 2000, these investments have saved over 32 million lives and climbing. The money invested by governments, in particular, is extremely important moving forward. Find out how much money your country contributes on The Global Fund website, and encourage your representatives to increase that number in the next giving cycle. 

4. Buy (RED)

Did you know that a pill that stops a mother from passing HIV to her baby only costs 20 cents? Still, 400 babies are born every single day with HIV, totally preventable. (RED) is a division of ONE, an organisation co-founded by Bono and other activists to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030. (RED) aims to end AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through partnering with iconic world brands and companies. 100% of the money generated by the partners for (RED) goes to on-the-ground work – such as providing those pills to pregnant mothers with HIV.

You can get involved by choosing (RED) products, particularly if it is something you were going to buy anyway. Everything from Apple iPhones to Moleskine Notebooks to Durex Condoms can be purchased in the (RED) variety – and you’ll know that part of your purchase will go towards saving lives around the world. Take a look at the (RED) products available here.

5. Make New Friends – Seriously

One of the best things you can do for your mental health, and for the mental health of others, is to make connections. Research has actually proven that having a strong social network is just as important as getting sleep, eating well, and not smoking. When you have a supportive network around you, your stress decreases which affects your immune system, coronary arteries, and even gut function and it increases all those happy hormones. (Harvard Medical School) 

You don’t have to become best friends with everyone in your community to spread the magic either. Simple interactions like talking to your Uber driver, the woman at the grocery store checkout, the handyman – can all have a positive affect on yourself and those around you.

Consider volunteering as a mentor or ‘friend’ for disadvantaged youth, the elderly, or new arrivals to your area. There are many local organisations all over the world who match individuals to spend time together. You could have an enormous impact on someone’s mental health, and you may just find that they improve yours as well. 

To end, something I’ve been thinking about as I watched the latest news out of Australia, completely heartbroken.

How do we keep focus on goals such as Health and Well-Being, when we feel the heaviness and prioritisation on pressing matters like Climate Change (Goal 13: Climate Action)?

I’ve mentioned it previously, but the Sustainable Development Goals were designed to work together and SDG3 is interrelated with so many other goals. No Poverty and Reducing Inequality, for example, can never be realised without Good Health and Well-Being. Some argue that unless we prioritise issues like Climate Change, there will be no people left to improve health for.

I came to the conclusion that the biggest reason  we must focus on all of the Sustainable Development Goals, not just those that seem more important at any given time, is that all progress would be lost. The decreasing numbers of deaths, the rising number of available vaccines, all of that positive change – would start to go the other direction. I’d rather have a world of people alive, and healthy, to fight for. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. 

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

Mahatma Gandhi



Like millions and millions across the world counting down to year-end, we at AM&M are beginning to wind down our pre-holiday business operations. Finishing up projects, trying to get those last to-dos ticked off the list, and planning our schedules for the year ahead. In the spirit of gift giving, my joining the firm this year was possibly the best gift I was given in 2019. (Thank you universe.) It’s been a gift of knowledge, empowerment, mentorship, and direction. There have been days of failure, mistakes, and lessons learned the hard way, but they’ve all contributed to the journey in positive ways. The Living the SDGs project, in particular, has inspired a forgotten passion within me. I can’t wait to see where it goes, and in what ways we as a firm can contribute, in 2020. I think I can speak for Anita, and all of us at AM&A, in saying that we hope you end the year in happiness, surrounded by love, and with the knowledge that you have the power to change the world.
It’s that time of year again. Twinkling lights strung across streets and shops and doorways. Store shelves lined with sweets and other goodies, heftily consumed in the spirit of the season. Joyful tunes waft through the air, bringing smiles to all who come in contact with the merry melodies.

This time of year touches all of us, regardless of religion or background or age. It brings magic and wonderment to small children and warm cosiness to those of us lucky enough to spend the days with family and friends.

It’s also the time of year that many of us shop the sales, peruse the malls, and meander down the high street in hopes of finding that perfect gift (or gifts) for those we love and hold dear. It becomes almost a game, an obstacle course, trolling crowds and Amazon for that last-minute special something.

It gets out of hand quickly. I’m guilty. Two kids and not seeing my family near enough, those wrapped boxes, tied with ribbons of love and good intentions,  quickly add up to mountainous piles, that at a point, seem to lose their meaning.

We’ve spent the last six months talking about the Sustainable Development Goals. What they are, where they came from, and ways that we can contribute as individuals to specific goals such as 1. No Poverty and 2. No Hunger. While we haven’t yet touched on it in-depth, Goal 12 is Responsible Consumption and Production. I wonder, are we consuming responsibly in our moments of giving?

In the UK alone, 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away. Two million turkeys will be eaten. And 100 sq km of wrapping paper will be torn and crumbled into piles across the country.

The thing is, I love giving presents. That smile on someone’s face when you’ve chosen that ‘perfect’ gift for them. That warm embrace and shared moment of giving. I don’t think that we need to stop buying presents, and wrapping them in pretty paper, but I do think we can be more mindful of what we buy and the purpose behind it. 

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of ten gift ideas that contribute to the SDGs. Some are material, some are more donation focused, but all of them have purpose. We encourage you to use this list of gifts that contribute to the SDGs as a starting point in your gift giving. We’ve said it all along: small steps, small actions, can add up to making a global difference. As 2019 winds to a close, let us end the year thinking about how we can make those moments of giving – moments of action and purpose that change the world for the better. 

10 Christmas Gift Ideas that COntribute to the SDGs

1. Basic Washbag for Refugees (Choose Love)


Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality
Choose Love is the world’s first store where you can purchase real gifts for refugees. They sell practical items such as toothpaste and diapers as well as services such as language courses and legal support. Instead of taking the items you purchase home – a similar item is given to a person who needs it. 

We’ve chosen the basic washbag as our top pick. It includes toothpaste, soap, shampoo and sanitary products – items nobody should go without. In the words of Choose Love, “This gift isn’t just about hygiene, it’s about helping people to maintain a sense of dignity in harsh environments.” 

You can visit a Choose Love shop at one of their locations in London, New York City, and Los Angeles. Gifts can also be purchased from their online store.  Price: £10


2. a year of school (IRC)

In 2017 alone, the International Rescue Committee helped to educate 1.14 million children around the world. Giving a ‘Year of School’ gift ensures that a child receives school fees, books, and other supplies to attend school for one year. 

According to the IRC, “A safe learning environment in places like Nigeria and Syria can provide children with a sense of predictability, protection from violence, and a safe place to heal from trauma. Being in a classroom gives children hope as they continue to learn and plan for a brighter future.”

A Year of School can be purchased from the IRC’s Rescue Gifts online store. You have the option of getting a printed card for your recipient that explains what a difference was made for children around the world on their behalf. Price: $58


Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

3. handmade yi ring from china (UNDP/Homemade Collection)

There are 40 million people in China from ethnic minority groups living in extreme poverty. Yunnan province is home to several of these, including the Yi people. Mass production in the province has replaced many traditional products and handicrafts with cheap reproductions, leaving the Yi community struggling to maintain their traditions and way of life. 

The UNDP, United Nations Development Programme has partnered with Yi artisans, as well as communities around the world, to keep them out of poverty. The handmade Yi ring not only features beautiful traditional embroidery of the skilled Yi artisans, but the purchase also helps support the local women with new crafting, budgeting and marketing skills. 

The handmade Yi ring can be purchased from the UNDP Homemade Collection online shop. Price: $19.99

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

4. the elephant bike (Cycle of Good)

Having reliable transportation can make all the difference for communities living in poverty. A simple bicycle can change someone’s life, giving them access to employment opportunities or education that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. 

Cycle of Good is part of a social enterprise that works with a community in Malawi with a simple goal: to end poverty. They employ ten Malawian tailors full-time, with plans to expand to a team of 100. The enterprise uses unwanted or waste products from the UK and turns them to profit. The larger charity employs over 500 people, providing them with training, benefits, and salaries three times higher than the national minimum wage. 

For every bike purchased through Cycle of Good, one bike is given to a local in the community. The Mammoth Elephant bike comes complete with accessories, all sustainably made from recycled materials. It can be purchased online from their website. Price: £365


Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

5. Feed a child for an entire school year (Mary’s Meals)

64 million of the world’s hungriest children do not attend school. For those who do attend, hunger severely affects their ability to learn. Mary’s Meals aims to fill the gap with their one goal – that every child receives a nutritious daily meal in a place of education. 

Mary’s Meals runs school feeding programmes in 18 countries, all owned and run by local volunteers in the community. Wherever possible, ingredients for the meals are  locally sourced, supporting the local community and wider economy. 

Giving the gift of a daily meal can change a child’s future. Your gift can be purchased through the official Mary’s Meals website. Price: £13.90

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: No Hunger Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

6. advent calendar of change (Advent of Change)

Advent calendars have become extremely popular. No longer reserved for small chocolates or tokens, now you can get a gin a day or luxury bath products behind every door. Advent of Change is an advent calendar, just not as you know it. 

For every purchase, the money is divided between 24 charities. Every day, instead of a sweet treat, your recipient finds out which charity they helped that day and how the money might be used for change. In 2018, Advent of Change raised over £100,000 for their chosen charities through advent calendar sales. The impact included rebuilding a primary school destroyed during a storm in Burundi, providing training to 275 women living in poverty in West Bengal, India and providing more families in the UK with accommodation to be near dying loved ones in hospice care. 

An advent calendar that gives everyday, that’s 24 gifts in one. Proof that small actions can  make a big impact. Price: £29.95

the SDGs as a whole, specific goals are dependent on the chosen charities.

7. life vest laptop sleeve (Makers Unite)

In 2016, 5000 discarded life-vests were used to create a display in Amsterdam, sparking nationwide conversation about the refugee crisis. Makers Unite, a social enterprise in the Dutch city, has grown from that movement. 

Through a six week program, Makers Unite provides refugees and newcomers with training, support and guidance within the Dutch creative industry – eventually connecting them with traineeships or employment opportunities.

The life vest collection helps fund these initiatives, travel accessories created from discarded life vests, all handmade by the refugees themselves. An object that once was a reminder of the trials they had to endure is now “granting the fabric a new identity as an ongoing symbol of hope. “

The Life Vest Laptop Sleeve can be purchased from Makers Unite online shop. Price: €39


Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

8.  A waterpump (Wateraid)

Perhaps a waterpump isn’t the first thing you’d think of giving someone, but for the 790 million people who don’t have access to an adequate water supply, a simple waterpump can be life-changing. 

WaterAid helps provide access to clean water, toilets, and hygiene to families and communities around the globe lacking these basic human necessities. It isn’t just about the water.  Having access to clean water gives children in poor villages freedom to go to school (instead of walking miles a day to fetch water), it improves infant mortality, decrease deaths caused by water-related illnesses and diarrhea, and increases productivity. 

Watch this video to see what an impact a waterpump can have on a community: 


Giving a pump will provide cleaner and easier access to water for a whole community. The waterpump can be purchased in the Wateraid Shop for Life and includes a personalised card for your recepient. Price: £37


Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality

9. organic cotton hoodie (Ninety Percent)

Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Fashion isn’t always thought of as the most sustainable gift to give, but Ninety Percent is working to change that. Based in London, the company donates 90% of their profits to charitable causes such as War Child and Wild Aid. 

All clothing is ‘pared back, luxury basics’, that won’t go out of style. Ninety Percent has championed the #DressBetter movement, an initiative that hopes to get consumers to challenge poor working conditions in the fashion industry. We especially love the interviews they do with the workers who make their clothes, such as Nurjahan, a sample operator in Bangladesh. 

The organic cotton oversized hoodie is available in five colours and is a staple piece anyone would love. Purchase in Ninety Percent’s online shop. Price: £105

10. mudlug backpack (Mudlug)


After learning that many children in foster care are moved with only a bin bag to hold their belongings, Dave Linton, founder of Madlug,  decided he needed to help. While he couldn’t save them from violence, neglect or abuse – he could make sure these vulnerable children made their way into a new chapter with dignity. 

‘No child should carry their life in a bin bag.’ 

For every backpack you buy, one is given to a child in foster care.  The backpacks are manufactured with a supplier who upholds high ethical standards, use sustainable materials, and focus on their environmental impact. 

Backpacks can be purchased from Madlug’s online shop. Price: £65


Goal 10: Reduced Inequality, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
We hope these ideas inspire your holiday giving year-round. If you prefer shopping in a brick and mortar store, or if that small person in your life has a very specific request, consider shopping at locally owned stores that support your community. Recycle or reuse wrapping paper, or get creative by using old fabric or other materials that otherwise would’ve gone to waste. Finally, while contributing to the SDGs through your giving is a wonderful way that individuals can take action, don’t forget that the best gift we can give each other is love.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

What a world we’d live in if hunger was a problem of the past. 

It is hard to believe sometimes that, despite all of the abundance we see around us every day, the choices we face regarding what our taste buds crave, the amounts of food we see wasted as a result of excesses, millions go to bed hungry. 

And yet, in 2019, the elimination of hunger remains a goal – a global goal.

Every goal in the 17 SDGs seems almost utopian on the surface. Luckily every goal also comes with the key metrics and specifics targets that help lead governments and individuals alike to align their strategies, measure their progress, and lay out specific areas that must be worked on to achieve them. 

The Sustainable Development Goals continue to have a massive impact on the work we do at AM&A. Why? Because every day through our work we try to make the connection between Tourism and why the SDGs matter. From Anita’s presentations to tourism leaders around the globe, to shaping the strategies we suggest to clients, the Global Goals must be at the center of what we do – particularly in Tourism. With every goal we interpret, with every goal we implement into our daily lives, it becomes more and more clear how needed, how urgent, how impactful the Sustainable Development Goals can be for our future. 

SDG #2 is one of the first that forces you, me, all of us, to deeply consider its practical meaning. I don’t know what it is to be hungry. To be honest, I’ve always struggled with the other side of the spectrum – eating too much. Growing up in a low-income family, the food wasn’t always nutritious, but it was always readily available. I can’t think of any society or culture that doesn’t revolve around food: dinner on the table brings families together after a long day, it breaks through cultural, political and linguistic barriers, and connects us when celebrating life’s momentous moments. Whether in Thanksgiving, matrimony, celebrations of faith, or even death – food is often at the heart.

And its presence can be taken for granted – healthy or not, abundant or not.

Yet, so many people on the planet struggle to get enough food to even survive. This basic human need is not being met for 821 million around the world who are chronically malnourished. 90 million of those are children under 5. 

Today we are going to talk about Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger. Meeting this goal will end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and ensure that all people, especially children, have sufficient and nutritious food all year long. 

This involves promoting sustainable agricultural, supporting small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets. It also requires international cooperation to ensure investment in infrastructure and technology to improve agricultural productivity.

Nobody should miss out on a childhood, going to school, or a future because of hunger. Particularly when there is just so much to go around. 

Why does hunger exist?

Just as we learned when discussing Goal 1: No Poverty, global inequality is shocking.  

1 in 8 adults around the world are obese. In the US and Europe, the number is hardly surprising, in Western developed nations the numbers jump to 1 in 3.  While food security is an issue for families globally, 2/3rds of undernourished people worldwide live in only two regions: Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. 

But why is there such a disconnect between the over-fed and under-fed?

Famines, food shortages/crises typically caused by drought or war, are responsible for the most severe cases of global starvation. According to the United Nations, there is a famine if: 

  • 20% of households suffer from extreme food shortages,
  • 30% of the population is acutely malnourished; and
  • Two out of every 10,000 people, or four children, die daily from food shortages.

Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are in hunger crisis with 20 million at risk of starvation and death. Armed conflict and climate change are the main culprits. Droughts have caused fields to go dry, cattle to die, and starvation to become the norm. Additionally, as of 2017, 37 countries depended on food aid – 28 of which are located in Africa. 

Population growth, debt, corruption, and disease also contribute to the inability of some countries to produce enough food for their citizens.

what is the effect of hunger?

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations says that chronic hunger happens if a person’s daily energy intake for an extended period of time is below what they need for a healthy and active life’. This typically equates to less than 1,800 calories a day. Using this measure, 226.7 million people are starving in Africa alone. 

Hunger isn’t just about malnutrition, it has a far reaching effect on every part of life. Hunger stunts brain development and can be a major obstacle for children who don’t have the energy to reach school or the concentration to digest material. Many children are also forced to leave education to help support their families. Without an education, there are less people to enter the workforce and contribute to their country’s development. 

It’s a vicious circle, but one that we can break.

is zero hunger achievable?

Up until 2017, the number of people suffering from hunger was on a major decline. Between 1990 to 2015, global hunger dropped by almost half – in large part to the UN’s Millenium Goals. Unfortunately over the past couple years the numbers are steadily increasing again – particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

But hope is not lost. With world leaders committed to ending world hunger by 2030, and individuals like us doing what we can in our own communities, the future looks positive. It’s been estimated that we could end world hunger permanently at a cost of $30 billion a year. That may seem like a lot, but to put it in perspective the US spends $737 billion a year on defense alone. According to the UN if we put $160 per person a year living in extreme poverty, world hunger would be completely eradicated by 2030. 

Most of us don’t have that kind of pocket change lying around, and per person sponsorships aren’t feasible, but we can make small, conscious actions that can add up to make a big difference.  Here are some ways that we as individuals can end world hunger.

actionable ways for individuals to end world hunger

1. Shop Purposefully
When we spoke about Goal 1: Eliminating Poverty, we learned that the UK’s largest food bank gave away 1.6 million packs of food supplies – a 19% annual increase from 2017. More and more people in communities around the world are having to rely on additional provisions to make ends meet. 

When you do your weekly shop, add one or two extra items for food bank donation. Many grocery stores in the UK have a food donation box at the end of the check-outs area. Check to see if your local store offers a collection point, and if they don’t – consider setting one up with a local charity. It’s such a low-effort way to make a big difference to locals in your area. 

Reach out to your local food bank or organisations working to feed the community and ask how you can donate. If we all added two items of food to our weekly shop, this would amount to 104 food items that could entirely eliminate food insecurity for a local family.

Shop online? Online grocery shopping is the fastest growing purchase channel, in both value and growth. (I probably do 1/4th of my shopping online in any given month.) While you can still add-on items for food donation, if you’re more of an online type person, you can also donate to charities through their websites who have fighting world hunger in their core mission.

A wonderful example is Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides life-changing meals to some of the world’s poorest children every day that they attend school. Only £13.90 (approx. $17.85) provides one child with a meal a day for a year. For every US$ 1 you give, 93c is spent directly on their charitable activities. Today they feed over 1 million children a day. Think about it – for less than US 10c a day a child is fed, unlocking their ability to learn, to grow, to be hopeful. If you happen to live in Scotland, Mary’s Meals has seven charity shops where you can donate your unwanted goods that will be sold and converted into food for hungry children worldwide. 

2. Encourage Food Share

Food waste is a root cause of world hunger worldwide, global food waste could feed the world’s hungry four times over. Globally we waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year, that’s about 1/3rd of the total amount of food produced for human consumption. In short, there’s enough food for everyone. 

More businesses than ever are now actively working towards cutting down or eliminating their food waste. Put your money into businesses that you know are doing their part to fight waste and hunger in your community. In the US alone, 43 billion pounds of food is thrown away by grocery stores. In the UK, it’s estimated that restaurants and cafes throw away approximately 320 million fresh meals a year. 

Friends of Champions 12.3 is a group of CEOs who are leading progress to achieve the UN’s SDGs target 12.3: Global Food Loss and Waste as part of Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. While there are not near enough big companies who’ve made the pledge, there are some that may be local to you who are doing their part.

Aldi for example has committed to halving their operational food waste by 2030. Last year in the UK they donated over 2 million meals through local organisations. They’ve also looked at their supply chain and have been actively reducing waste by not purchasing it in the first place. 

You can see the full list of members in the Friends of Champions 12.3 here.

If you do a quick Google search of your local grocery store name + food waste, you should get a result for their policies and efforts. If not, reach out. Consumers drive what businesses ultimately value: let them know it matters to you. 

Of course, limiting your own food waste is important as well. Meal planning is a great way to ensure that you only buy what you need. Bring a list, and stick to it.  Utilise your leftovers by putting them toward additional meals or incorporating them into a recipe in a new way – be inventive! 

3. Eat Local and Seasonally

There are some fresh food items we love to buy year-round. I, for example, love avocados – which unsurprisingly is not a fruit that grows well in the UK climate. The simple avocado that I grew up eating like apples doesn’t just appear in the UK – most of mine are plastered with a sticker showing their origin as Mexico. Firstly it needs to be grown – due to supply and demand this now trending fruit has contributed to massive deforestation, greenhouse and carbon emissions (from both growing on a massive scale and transporting) and has affected local water supplies. An avocado toast on a Saturday morning always feels like a great choice, and I’m not saying let’s put a ban on guacamole, but we need to consider the socio-economic impact of our food choices. 

Farmers in developing nations actually make up a majority of the world’s hungriest and poorest people. The World Economic Forum estimates that 500 million small farms produce 80% of food for the developing world. Due to unfair trade policies as well as industrialised nations moving production to these affected regions and taking away supply chains, rural farmers are left in hunger. War, famine, and other outside influences also affect these stats, but how is it that those who grow our food are going without? 

Instinctively I thought that by choosing to buy seasonally I’d be taking away what business these farmers have, creating a negative impact on their livelihoods. It turns out though, in most cases, that if there is money to be made, someone bigger is going in and producing at such large volumes that smaller farmers can’t compete with price competition, market access or profit. (Food and Agricultural Organization) If their own communities are buying locally, and we are following suit, there is more than enough food to be produced for the hungry without shipping it out in bulk to those of us already living in excess. The exception to this, are the nations we discussed earlier, such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa, where outside influences such as climate have made agricultural  production impossible. 

Food tastes better in season, and supporting your local farmers is important for the agricultural development and success in your own community. Challenge your food choices, explore new varieties, and find ways to increase the positive impact of foods you consume. 
You can find out what produce grows when in your area by using this map from Epicurious.

As I was reading about world hunger, there was an obvious cross-over with Goal 1: No Poverty. It’s logical: if you are living in extreme poverty, you aren’t getting enough food to eat either. Especially the right, healthy food. 

We highly encourage you to go back and read about ways we can eliminate poverty if you haven’t yet had the chance. The SDGs don’t work alone – the 17 Goals are interrelated, interdependent. If we eliminate poverty, hunger would likely topple as a result. And when one SDG is addressed, the rest are given the nudge they need to step forward towards solutions that make today’s fundamental challenges history.

We as a global community have so much work to do. Our shared world hungers for action. 

Let’s continue to work together, continue to make small changes in our everyday lives. It doesn’t need to be an overnight transformation – if we cannot sustain the positive impact we risk doing even greater damage. 

Goal #2 matters, to millions. We need to be purposeful as we continue to consider ways that we, as individuals, together, can contribute to the SDGs towards 2030. 

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. 

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter




In my role as lead of Marketing at ANITA MENDIRATTA & Associates, I’m exposed to global diplomacy and high-level tourism development on a daily basis. Leaders leading, in different ways in different countries and contexts, with different levels of influence and impact, across the globe. The transition from working on the customer focused side of the tourism industry to now my current, more globally-orientated position, has been a learning curve. I’m slowly learning how to make words matter, and how to speak so that people listen. I can feel my perspective widening, AM&A’s trust in my instincts growing. All necessary components to any worthwhile journey. Thanks to the guidance of Anita, the gaps are being filled. 

Anita asked me to write a piece on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), particularly why it matters. If you’ve been following along with our Living the SDGs project, we’ve been looking at how individuals like you and I can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make a difference. The SDGs were a key talking point in this year’s UNGA, so our understanding of the purpose, function, and outputs of the General Assembly will aid our journey moving forward.

I never paid much attention to the UNGA in previous years beyond the major headlines. My closest encounter with the inner-workings of the UN was my stint as Australia and Côte d’Ivoire, respectively, with Model United Nations during University. 

Coverage of this year’s UNGA seemed heightened. Possibly in part due to a spitfire Swedish teen, or possibly because of the growing awareness and importance of global issues amongst the general population. Either way, the 2019 General Assembly has now concluded. But what happens when the world leaders come together and why does it matter? 


What is the United Nations General Assembly?

The General Assembly of the United Nations meets together in New York City annually, 2019’s meeting marked the 74th session since the UN was founded in 1945. With 193 member states represented, as well as ‘non-member observer states’ such as the Vatican and European Union, it is a time for small and large nations alike to come together and be heard. Unlike the UN Security Council, which is made up of the US, China, the UK, France and Russia, members of the General Assembly do not pass binding resolutions. 

As the world’s most prominent diplomatic stage, the General Assembly offers world leaders a forum to debate the biggest global issues, domestic threats and concerns, and international peace and security. From climate change to humanitarian crises to territorial disputes – everything finds its way to the ‘table’. And leaders seek to secure a seat at the table where they feel an impact can be made, and felt. 

While the UNGA may not pass actionable laws, many of the resolutions that have come out of it have made a major impact. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, that set the first global standard for human rights. The Millenium Declaration in 2000 that set actionable targets to reduce poverty and improve access to education amongst other goals. (Read more about the Millenium Goals here.) And, of course, the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, that gave us the 17 SDGs to work towards until 2030. 

The General Debate

The main component of the UNGA is called the General Debate. This year’s theme was “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion”. 

Each member state is given 15 minutes to address the UNGA, although the recommended time is rarely adhered to. (Fun fact: Indian defense minister V.K. Krishna Menon holds the record for longest UN speech ever, he spoke for  7 hours 48 minutes in 1957.) 

Brazil is first to take the stage, a tradition earned in the early days of the UN General Assembly when the nation always volunteered to speak first. Brazil is followed by the United States as host country, and then the remaining member states who all have their turn based on “ level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.”

Although it’s called the General Debate, there isn’t actually much debating. Speakers can discuss any topic of importance to their government, although they generally align their speeches with the overall theme for that year. 

What was new in 2019?

The priority this year was Climate Action, and heads of state and government came together for the Climate Action Summit.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested that countries who wished to speak during the summit only did so if they have “concrete and transformative plans” to halt rising global temperatures, achieve carbon neutrality and cut carbon emissions by 45 percent. And even then, they only had three minutes.

Much like the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action can not be solved by the UN body alone or any of the member states who have made it a top priority. All members must come together, pressuring those who take the state of the planet less seriously, to collectively strategise ways to fight global warming and cut carbon emissions within their own respective countries. 

According to researchers, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, the world needs to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030. The goal is massive, particularly because most current climate action commitments don’t come close to meeting the goal. This year, 65 countries pledged to increase their climate targets. While a positive step, the new commitments only limit global warming to between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees celsius – far above the goal’s threshold. The UN has two upcoming climate conferences, one later this year and one in 2020, which will give members another opportunity to increase their commitments. As individuals, we can contribute to climate action in our day to day lives alongside world leaders, read more about Goal 13: Climate Action here.  

Here are some of the highlights from the Climate Action Summit. 

  •  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he would more than double the target for his country’s renewable energy to a goal of 450 gigawatts. As one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, this was a positive step. 


  • Members of the Green Climate Fund, money that helps developing nations with their climate efforts, pledged to double their current contributions – bringing the fund to $7 billion. 


  • 32 members, 25 subnational governments, and 34 businesses committed to opening no more coal plants after 2020. 

And then there was ‘that speech’ that made all the difference….

Why was this year different?

The Greta factor. The 15 year old Swedish student who began protesting for climate justice by herself outside the Swedish parliament just over one year ago, is now a familiar face in the headlines. 

She arrived in New York for the GA  in novel style, opting to spend two weeks travelling by a zero-emissions boat rather than taking an airplane. Since landing in the US, she’s been on every talk show, met with President Obama, and even addressed the U.S. Senate. Her address at the UN went viral, as she urged world leaders to take climate action more seriously. 

While Greta has undoubtedly elevated the urgency of climate action, it is the world’s youth who have taken her message and demonstrated a level of activism unprecedented in recent history. Millions of people took to the streets all over the world ahead of the GA, and the following week, to strike against climate change. The protests took place in an estimated 185 countries, and even included a small showing of scientists in Antarctica. Youth, those under 18, have championed the cause. Striking, and missing school, to call on world leaders to protect their planet and future. 

“Yesterday millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people. We showed that we are united and we young people are unstoppable.” – Greta Thunberg

 Watch Greta’s ‘How Dare You?’ speech below.

I went with my own daughter to the Climate Strike in London, and even though I’ve been to my fair share of protests through the years, I was surprised by the energy, passion and anger of the younger generations. When you see a 12 year old girl with pigtails calling for justice, you know that change is coming.

The SDGs

The SDG Summit took centre stage during the first two days of the General Debate. This involved present heads of state and government following up and reviewing their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG Summit was the first official event dedicated to the SDGs since the agenda was adopted in 2015, four years ago.

The GA took a look at data and trends from within some of the specific goals such as extreme poverty, child mortality rates, and water and electricity access in rural areas. This gave members a chance to step back and see where progress has been made, but also look at where there are still major shortcomings. The biggest message to come out of the summit was that all members are off track to meet the goals by 2030 – but that there is still time. 

The political declaration, “Gearing up for a Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development”, set a clear message for the next decade: planning time is over, now we need action. Several actions or commitments were made by member states in response. 

  • Finland pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.

  • Mexico pledged to deliver internet access to all citizens, including vulnerable communities.

  • President Salih of Iraq spoke about using the SDGs as a framework for rebuilding his country after years of conflict. Creating jobs for youth, good governance for all citizens, and combating corruption were mentioned as priorities. 

Collaboration between the public and private sector is paramount for progress, achieving the SDGs without ‘partnerships for the goals’ is not possible.  “Private sector companies hold the key,” remarked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the summit. The private sector played a key role during the summit, these are some of the highlights. 

  • The UN Global Compact, a corporate sustainability group, released a report calling on the private sector to do their part. 

  • Mastercard reiterated their commitment to the SDGs, with plans in progress to bring nearly 500 million people in deeply impoverished regions into the banking system.

  • Danone, along with 19 other companies such as Kellogg and Nestlé, launched an initiative to protect biodiversity. Particularly: eliminate deforestation, protect natural ecosystems, boost regenerative farming, and become less reliant on overused crops. 

With only a decade left, UN Secretary General António Gutteres’s opening words said it best.  “We are far from where we need to be…We are off track.” But with new commitments, and a much needed refocus, there is still time to achieve the goals if words turn to action. 

So, why does the UN General Assembly matter?

Of everything I’ve learned from the Sustainable Development Goals thus far, the importance of working together to create change is without a doubt the number one takeaway. One committed nation can’t stop global poverty. One advocate for climate change can’t stop the rising temperatures. One leader can’t deliver world peace.

The UN General Assembly matters because of the opportunity it gives the world to work together, to learn from one another, and to organise for the betterment of humanity. Multilaterism is defined as multiple countries working together to pursue a common goal, and this is the purpose of the UN GA at its core. Countries can disagree with one another for most of the year, but when they come together at the GA it gives everyone an opportunity to step back, if even for a day, and mobilise around issues in which they find common ground. 

UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande of Nigeria concluded this year’s session with the following:

“In a highly polarized world, multilateralism is the only guarantee of peace, security and sustainable development. The world will not survive for long unless we cultivate the give-and-take spirit, which is a distinct and defining attribute of multilateralism.”

It isn’t perfect. Commitments don’t always turn into actions and not everyone will get along. But in a world with increasing threats to security and stability, a growing refugee crisis, trade wars and political uncertainty, any event that brings us all together –  particularly to make that world a better and safer place – matters.