Impact of COVID-19 on SDG3 Progress Series Part 1

Social and Cultural impacts of COVID-19
By:  Ugra Mohan Jha On September 18, 2021

Dr. Ugra Mohan Jha

Senior M&E and Research professional, Senior Consultant, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, India

Team Co-Leader and Co-Author for SDG3 and Researcher for SDG1 & SDG2 at SHERPA Institute’s UN SDG Corporate Guidebook Series.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought health and health inequalities into sharp focus. The pandemic has shown us a new world where no one is safe. How much money you possessed; how powerful you may be, the agony inflicted by Covid-19 is immense.

It is supposed that reporting of Covid-19 cases and deaths have been highly underreported by many countries across the world and Covid-19 cases could have been more than 500 million across the world till date.  Per Worldometer, total cases reported globally were around 228 million and deaths were around 4.6 million, as on 17 September 2021, and have only increased since. Millions of people are experiencing untold misery and suffering as the virus overwhelms our bodies and economies. Rich and poor, the pandemic has forced us to reconsider almost every aspect of how we live (UNDP, 2020).

In this series I discuss the pandemic’s implications on SDG3 (Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-being for All at All Ages) and understand how COVID-19 became so difficult to deal with.  Cultural issues in containing pandemic, even burial practices have become an issue, barriers, preventive measures, etc. The impact of the pandemic on society is unclear, long-lasting, and difficult to measure.

The social and economic inequalities are amplifying the challenge of managing COVID-19 globally. Minority groups are often made scapegoats and are subjected to racist, exclusionary, often violent discourses and practices (UNESCO, 2020).

The coronavirus crisis represents an unprecedented cultural misfortune. For example, Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Hindus to change the way the dead are handled. Traditionally Hindus would be cremated but due to Covid-19 protocol, many Hindus families buried their dead relatives (Mikles, 2021).

COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, the poor, refugees and migrants.  The Social Determinants of Health teach us that health is more than medical treatment. Many vulnerable groups have suffered due to their specific health and financial resources, poor living conditions and lack of access to high-quality health care. Moreover, the collateral effects of the pandemic resulting from the global economic downturn, social isolation and movement restrictions inequitably affect those who are already marginalized (UN , 2021).

Extraordinary humanitarian interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic offer hope for new ways of forming and sustaining solidarity across cultural backgrounds and geographic borders.  The transnational community showcased during the unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 during April-May, 2021 in India when many offered and provided oxygen and other critical medical equipment and materials. Such solidarity across all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, and NGOs, can work wonder for achievements in SDG 3.

In this series, follow-up articles will look at masks and other precautions during Covid-19, how missed preventative care during the pandemic has derailed SDG 3 achievements, how to get one’s health back on track, the worsening of mental health and substance abuse, and resistance to accepting medical and public health advice.  The coming articles will look at these aspects and more.

To learn more about the Social Determinants of Health, please follow the article series by SDG3 Co-Author, Dr. Elissa Torres.  If you have any questions or thoughts on the pandemic’s impact on SDG3, I invite you to share below. I’d love to hear from you!  Please follow this series.  Thank you again for your interest!



Mikles, N. (2021). Indians are forced to change rituals for their dead as COVID-19 rages through cities and villages. The Conversation. Retrieved from

UN . (2021). The Sustainable Development Goals Report. Retrieved from

UNDP. (2020). COVID-19 and the SDGs, How the ‘roadmap for humanity’ could be changed by a pandemic. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2020). The socio-cultural implications of COVID-19. Retrieved from

Worldometer. (2021, September 17). COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, Last updated: September 17, 2021, 17:50 GMT. Retrieved from Worldometer:

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By Ugra Mohan Jha

Dr. Ugra Mohan Jha is a Team Co-Leader and Co-Author for SDG3, as well as a Researcher for SDGs 1 and 2 with the SHERPA Institute UN SDG Corporate Guidebook Series.  He is a Senior Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Research professional with over 16 years of professional experience in public health monitoring and research. Ugra is a Senior Statistician, Demographer and expert in Development, with high quality research and analytical skills and the ability to think outside the box. He is currently working in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India as a Senior Consultant. While working in the ministry of health, he has extensively collaborated with global and UN organizations including WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, CDC, FHI, JSI and Population Council.  Early in the pandemic, Ugra was tapped to support India’s COVID-19 National Nodal Officer with the data support team.  Dr. Jha also has published more than 11 research articles in national and international peer reviewed journals. Dr. Jha is a passionate sustainability leader with deep research acumen. He has led several sustainability related initiatives while working in the Ministry; and Ugra introduced strategic thinking in the department in the use of information systems. Some of these include design and development of national MIS system with automation of recording and reporting system at National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in India and at the Statistics Division of the Ministry. He was also involved in the National HIV Estimation & Projection and Modelling in India and worked alongside global HIV modelling experts. Ugra successfully organized the ISO 9001:2008 certification of NACP in India. Ugra earned his Doctorate in Extension and Development Studies from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), a Master of Population Studies from International Institute for Population Sciences, a Master of Science in Statistics from University of Delhi, and a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Ranchi University, India. He loves music, yoga, watching laughter shows, reading or listening to ancient India spiritual books such as the Veda, the Ramayana and the Bhagawad Gita.

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