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World Health Day: States faulted for failing to invest in Public Healthcare

WHO decries health of millions is increasingly coming under threat

Kenya has rolled out a new health insurance fund that seeks to provide affordable healthcare to all

As the world marks World Health Day on April 7, governments are in the spotlight over their failure to invest adequate resources in public healthcare systems, undermining many people’s right to health.

Under international human rights law, States have an obligation to ensure that healthcare goods and services are available, accessible, acceptable, and of good quality.

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“Adequate funding is a vital part of a states’ ability to fulfill these obligations, and they have a duty to use the maximum of their available resources towards realizing rights, including the right to health” observes the Human Rights Watch.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is expressing similar concerns. It notes that despite at least 140 countries recognising health as a human right in their constitution,  many are yet to pass laws to ensure their populations are entitled to access health services.

“This underpins the fact that at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021” it states.

The organization further regrets that the right to health of millions is increasingly coming under threat from diseases and disasters which loom large as causes of death and disability.

Similarly, conflicts are devastating lives, causing death, pain, hunger and psychological distress.

“The burning of fossil fuels is simultaneously driving the climate crisis and taking away our right to breathe clean air, with indoor and outdoor air pollution claiming a life every 5 seconds” it observes.

In Africa, member states have however been applauded  for their efforts to accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Kenya is one of the countries that has enacted new laws that will revolutionise the healthcare system.

President William Ruto administration is also rolling out the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), one of his key policies, which seeks to provide affordable healthcare to all Kenyans.

“They are reforming their health policies and revamping legislative and regulatory frameworks, including National Health Insurance Schemes (NHIS) and Social Health Insurance (SHI) schemes to reduce catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditures” says WHO WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

He acknowledges that several countries have started operationalizing an integrated Life Stages Approach, which prioritizes the health of individuals at every stage of their life and the care needed at any time.

“Health is not only a fundamental human right but also central to peace and prosperity. Thus, addressing health inequities requires intentional efforts” he emphasizes while calling for the intergration of the vulnerable groups.

“Considerations of vulnerable groups must be assessed. Their needs ought to be purposively integrated into health programmes at all levels to accelerate progress toward UHC. We know that many in our region still need help with access to quality essential health services due largely to unfulfilled rights”.

Dr Moeti pointed out disparities in the coverage of key reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health interventions which he said remain significant, with the rural dweller, the poor, and those in hard-to-reach areas being the most disadvantaged.

“I urge our Member States to uphold the progress towards fulfilling the right to health, agreed by all nations of the world in 1948 and enshrined in the WHO Constitution” he appealed.

The theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’.

This year’s theme was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Additional information by WHO

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