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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) 12th July, 2022

President of the ECOSOC, H.E. Mr. Collen Kelapile


Ladies and Gentleman 

It gives me great pleasure to present Eritrea’s first Voluntary National Review report to the 2022 United Nations High- Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance and National Development, the VNR preparation process used a whole-of-government approach, which was highly participatory and robust. The process was locally-owned, highly collaborative, and transparent, involving the contributions and participation of range of entities, including ministries, civil society and other organizations, and the UN development system in Eritrea.

Focusing on SDG 3 – health and well-being and SDG13- climate action, and briefly touching upon the status of implementation of the other SDGs, the report presents Eritrea’s unique experiences, including successes, lessons learned, and key takeaways, in implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Eritrea’s achievements on the two SDGs are impressive and offer important insights for other countries operating in resource constrained environments. The report also reflects on challenges on Eritrea’s development trajectory towards attainment of the priorities in its National Charter, and attainment of the SDGs.

In Eritrea, sustainable development, in all of its fundamental elements and principles, remains an integral part of the country’s long-term vision and policy architecture. The national policies and action plans are closely aligned with the SDGs. The National Charter, adopted in 1994, for example laid out the guiding vision and aspirations for the country, summarizing them into a number of basic goals: national harmony; political democracy; social and economic development; social justice; cultural revival; and regional and international cooperation.

Guided by the principle of self-reliance, Eritrea’s development and nation-building processes are grounded on social justice and leaving no one behind. Unwavering emphasis is placed on ensuring that all citizens, regardless of their (religion, language, locations… etc.), can freely and fully participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the progress in national development programs. National policies, legal instruments, and social protection programs establish a foundation for development, while guaranteeing and promoting a range of fundamental rights including addressing the specific needs of vulnerable groups in the population.

Eritrea is one of the few countries that entered the SDGs period having achieved most of the health related MDGs. The country’s experiences and noteworthy achievements during the MDGs era have offered useful lessons and valuable insights, as well as provided a firm platform to build on successes and drive forward, with added momentum, for the SDGs.

With regard to SDG 3, which aims for good health and well-being, the Eritrea’s national health policies and health sector strategic development plans aspire to maximize the health and well-being of all citizens at all ages and seeks to ensure equity and access to essential health services consistent with universal health coverage (UHC) principles. Since the launch of SDGs in 2016, a wide set of interventions have been implemented to expand access and improve health care for all, leading to the achievement of UHC.

Health service continues to be heavily subsidized, with patients required to make only nominal payments (which are wholly waived in cases of financial need). Many essential health services are provided completely free of charge, while all patients with selected chronic diseases and other disorders are provided with free care and prescribed medications. Significant improvement was made in expanding health infrastructure, through construction and renovation of many health facilities, human resource development, and provision of essential medicines and medical equipment.

Accordingly, the following achievements have been made in relation to SDG3:

  • Life expectancy at birth has shown significant improvement, rising from 49.6 years in 1990 to 65.1 in 2016 and 67.1 years in 2021.
  • Currently, approximately 80 percent and 70 percent of the population lives within a 10 and 5 Kms radius of a health facility, respectively, representing major improvements from just a few decades ago.
  • The maternal mortality ratio dropped from 998 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 228 in 2015, and 184 in 2019 – an overall reduction of 82 percent during the period 1990-2019.
  • The proportion of deliveries by skilled health workers has risen to 71 percent from 36 percent in 2010 and only 6 percent in 1990.
  • Under-five mortality rate was reduced by 75 percent, from 153 in 1990 to 39 in 2020.
  • Tremendous strides have been made with regard to national vaccination. The proportion of the target population covered by all vaccines included in the National Immunization Programme is nearly universal, with more than 95 percent of children fully immunized for their age.
  • HIV prevalence and new infection rates have been reduced with current prevalence among the general population of 0.6%.
  • The country is transitioning from pre-elimination towards elimination of malaria.

Regarding progress on SDG 13 which advocates about climate action, Eritrea has signed and ratified a number of international climate change agreements and instruments. The Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, working closely with other ministries, offices, CSO, and UN development system, has prepared and submitted a range of climate change- and biodiversity-related reporting documents.

In order to achieve a climate-resilient future, Eritrea is working towards the development of renewable energy and efficiency improvement in all sectors, particularly in energy production, transmission, distribution, and consumption, as well as in transport, manufacturing, and household energy consumption. A number of projects are also in place to conserve, restore, and enhance natural areas, including regular nationwide afforestation campaigns involving the participation of communities, students, and youth groups, as well as water and soil conservation programs. Moreover, the climate change adaptation and mitigation measures include, expansion of irrigation schemes, and construction of terraces, dams, and ponds. Households and communities, especially those in at-risk areas, receive support with adaptation strategies and technologies, helping to reduce vulnerability, strengthen resiliency, and secure livelihood

Eritrea is vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, such as recurrent droughts, flooding and storms, high winds (especially with coastal areas), locust swarms, and volcanic activity. National responses to and management of hazards and disasters involve a comprehensive approach. The Ministry of Land, Water, and Environment, along with different levels of government and administration, and various other partners work collaboratively to mobilize resources, coordinate activities, and assist communities to recover.

Regarding progress on other SDGs, there has been laudable improvement in provision of quality education; advancing gender equality through empowerment of women and girls developing infrastructure, expanding the national roads network, raising agricultural production and productivity, and ensuring food and nutrition security, while access to electricity, water, sanitation, and hygiene, among other critical services, have been expanded, with notable expansions in rural areas.

In the area of partnership and cooperation, Eritrea has established cooperative frameworks and cultivated close partnerships with a range of bilateral and multilateral partners, regional and international organizations, and other entities. Meaningful engagement and effective cooperation are built, with concerted efforts being based on complementarity and guided by the country’s locally-defined priorities and specific needs.

In an effort of containing the spread of COVID-19 and mitigating its impact on socio-economic development as well as implementation of SDGs, the government of Eritrea took sustained strong and aggressive actions. This was supported by frequent and clear communications from authorities, high levels of public buy-in and solidarity, and past experience and success in controlling endemic and communicable diseases. Accordingly, Eritrea has maintained among the lowest death and infection rates in Africa, with a high recovery rate and minimal community transmission. The total number of confirmed cases to date is 9,827, with 9,700 recoveries and 103 total deaths.

While much overall progress has been made, the VNR process has identified areas of the needs improvement to enhance further progress towards the implementation of the SDGs in the remaining period of the agenda. The process has highlighted the need of strengthening the national statistical system and enhancing the provision of timely, quality, complete, and disaggregated data to properly monitor and report on the progress of SDGs. Moreover, there is a need to expend resources, foster cooperation, and cultivate partnerships to support a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, fully realize developmental aspirations, improve the well-being of the population, and ensure the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

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