A CALL TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE
To Prioritize the Right to Healthcare and to Clean Water
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights seizes this opportunity to remind the newly sworn in government and Parliament of Zimbabwe as the duty bearers to place priority on the right to healthcare as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe at Chapter 4, Sections 76 and 77. While it is plausible and commendable to note that the right to healthcare is now part of our constitution, it is important for government officials to bear it mind in that human rights are indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. As such, the entire bill of rights in the new constitution must be read to the effect that all the other rights in the new constitution exist to reinforce the right to healthcare. The other ancillary rights such as the right to food and clean water are useful in ensuring good health and the provision of adequate healthcare. As a nation we have to work together for the collective good and appreciation that respect for human rights and peace are essential for the realisation of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In light of the above, it is important for the new government to ensure that it respects, protects and fulfills the right to healthcare:
THE RIGHT TO HEALTH IN THE ZIMBABWE CONSTITUTION
The Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the rights to health at section 76 where it states that:
76. Right to health care
1) Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services.
2) Every person living with a chronic illness has the right to have access to basic healthcare services for the illness.
3) No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health-care institution.
4) The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights set out in this section.
77. Right to food and water
Every person has the right to—
(a) safe, clean and potable water; and
(b) sufficient food;
and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
GOVERNMENT OBLIGATIONS AT INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL LEVEL
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “every human being has right to the well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”. The constitution of Zimbabwe also guarantees these rights. There is need to translate these rights into a reality for the people of Zimbabwe.
In terms of Article 16 of the African Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health” and that “States parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick”.
In pursuit of the obligations in the Abuja Declaration of 2001 in which Heads of States and Governments of African countries met and pledged to set aside 15% of their annual budgets to improve the health sector, Zimbabwe must follow through with this commitment and ensure that at least 15% of the national budget is committed to the health sector.
COMPLIMENTARY AND MUTUALLY REINFORCING
It is important for the government of Zimbabwe to realize that the right to health cannot be achieved through the provision of health services and healthcare alone. It also depends on the realization of other human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and other International instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are by their nature complementary and mutually reinforcing. The right to health cannot exist in the absence of other rights.
- The government of Zimbabwe must engage and deepen relations with the private sector, the international community and donor institutions in efforts aimed at intensifying the progressive realisation of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
- The government of Zimbabwe should engage in pro-poor planning which offers welfare support for the poor. Policy planning and implementation on the right to health must be all inclusive and participatory with community involvement, ownership and accountability for health being major components of Zimbabwe’s health policies.
The government of Zimbabwe is also encouraged to renew its efforts in seeking to achieve the commitments in the Millennium Declaration. Priority must be given to health related Millennium Development Goals. In particular priority must be given to;
a) Millenium Development Goal Number 4 – Reduce child mortality.
The government must continue its sterling efforts in seeking to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five. While significant gains have been realized in this area, a lot needs to be done to ensure significant reduction of child mortality.
b) Millennium Development Goal 5 – Improve maternal health.
Many women continue to die during child birth in Zimbabwe and most deliveries are not done in safe maternal institutions because of poverty. The government must ensure affordable or free maternal services throughout Zimbabwe. Further, priority should also be given to cervical cancer through increasing access to information and cancer screening centers. Zimbabwean women have one of the highest recorded age-standardized rates of cervical cancer in the world (67 per 100,000), with less than 5% cervical cancer screening coverage (National Health Strategy).
c) Millennium Development Goal 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases other diseases.
- There is need for the government to scale up provision of Anti-Retroviral treatment. Currently there is a huge deficit with only 350 000 currently receiving ART against the huge backdrop of over 1, 2 million people who are in need of the life saving drugs. While there has been a steady decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, there is need to maintain the trend of reduction and focus on the realization of, “Zero Infections. Zero Deaths. Zero Discrimination”.
Government must also ensure;
- Access to adequate clean water by all citizens of Zimbabwe;
- Public hospitals and clinics are stocked with adequate and affordable medication;
- Trained medical personnel, with motivating working conditions, are recruited and placed in medical institutions throughout the country to rid the health sector of the workforce deficit reported in many public health institutions throughout the country.
- Food and food assistance is given to the poor and marginalized members of our Zimbabwean society. Many Zimbabweans are facing the scourge of poverty, hunger and famine;
By and large the ZADHR firmly believes that the sustenance of the Health Transition Fund will continue to create a pool of resources necessary for financing health programmes of the Ministry of Health and Child Care. In so doing, the government, as a duty bearer, should also supplement the Health Transition Fund by channeling a portion of the revenue realized from our own natural resources towards investing in the health of the people.