SERAP wants health rights included in constitution

Ebola patients receiving treatment
Ebola patients receiving treatment

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to “promote a rights-based approach to healthcare for millions of disadvantaged Nigerians to control and combat the Ebola disease.”

In a statement Sunday signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that, “We note that the government’s reaction so far has contributed to curtailing the spread of the disease. But the inadequacy of a reactive approach to the problem is illustrated by the low survival rates of victims here in the country when compared to those in countries with developed and functioning healthcare systems.”

The organization said that, “the unfortunate reality is that the full enjoyment of the right to health still remains a distant goal for millions of Nigerians especially those who continue to live in poverty as a result of years of mismanagement and high level official corruption.”

“This problem is further exacerbated by the absence of functioning public health and health-care facilities, grossly insufficient resources and official corruption. The result is that payment for basic healthcare remains beyond the reach of majority of Nigerians,” the organization said.

According to the organization, “The Ebola outbreak provides an opportunity for the government to formulate a coherent health policy that is based on human rights principles. And President Jonathan needs to urgently provide the leadership to make this happen. As a starting point, the President should now publicly support the inclusion of a legally enforceable right to healthcare in the constitution.”

The organization also said that, “A long term and preventive approach that conceives health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity is urgently needed. Any such policy must adopt a holistic approach to the right to health by for example promoting the effective enjoyment of associated rights such as the rights to food, housing, work, education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, and equality.”

“One of the things this government can immediately begin to do to prevent the spread of Ebola is to commit adequate resources to provide and promote an environment across the country where people can lead a healthy life, in particular by ensuring access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, safe and healthy working conditions, and a healthy environment,” the organization also said.

The organization also said that, “The government must ensure the participation of the population in all health‑related decision-making across the country. Investments should not disproportionately favour expensive curative health services which are often accessible only to a small, privileged fraction of the population, rather than primary and preventive health care benefiting a far larger part of the population.”

“There is absolutely no justification why Nigerians especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population should not enjoy a right to health that would assure to them medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness, including the provision of equal and timely access to basic preventive, curative, rehabilitative health services and health education; regular screening programmes; appropriate treatment of prevalent diseases such as Ebola, and the provision of essential drugs and care,” the organization added.

The organization said that, “Health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services’”

“The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides the most comprehensive article on the right to health in international human rights law. In accordance with article 12.1 of the Covenant, States parties recognize “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” the organization added.

Adetokunbo Mumuni
SERAP Executive Director
31/8/2014


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