Bulletin #40: Right to health remains elusive as world marks Human Rights Day

This fortnight  

The world marked another Human Rights Day on January 10. Even on this day, thousands of people around of world saw their right to health denied and attacked. In some places, this happened because of rising inequalities and the impossibility to access essential necessities, including food. This was particularly true in Africa: in Data speaks, we look at the changes in hunger and malnutrition indicators in sub-Saharan Africa as reported by the WHO.

The right to health found itself under attack as health workers and activists were targeted by oppressive governments and occupation forces. The organization Viva Salud works with the human rights defender who have been experiencing this kind of repression. In this issue, we bring insights from their partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, and Palestine.

While health activism and healthcare delivery are jeopardized by conflicts and oppression, health systems struggle with unforeseen disease outbreaks and obstacles in access to medicines. The cholera outbreak in Lebanon prompted a competent response by the Ministry of Health and health organizations. It was also a warning to strengthen health, water, and sanitation infrastructure.

In Brazil, an important decision by the Supreme Court which limits the duration of patents and protects the people’s right to health is being threatened by Big Pharma. Health organizations are preparing to counter the attack, calling for Brazil to become an inspiration to other countries when it comes to putting people's health over private profit.

Health workers continue to mobilize in different countries. Primary health care doctors in Madrid are now in the third week of strike, while nurses in the National Health Service in Wales, Northern Ireland and England just launched their biggest industrial action ever.

The next issue of the People's Health Dispatch will be published in the week of January 2, 2023

Pharma companies attempt to overturn Brazilian Supreme Court’s historic decision on patents

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to undermine a decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court from 2021 which puts health ahead of private profit

Cholera outbreak a warning to strengthen health and WASH standards in Lebanon

As the number of new cholera cases in Lebanon stagnates, health workers and activists call for the outbreak to be taken as a warning to increase preparedness ahead of future flare ups

Violence against health workers in the DRC continues

The escalating armed conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is exacerbating the humanitarian and health situation in the region

As long as we are here, we will keep fighting: Filipino health activists brave repression

Following the election of Bongbong Marcos as president of the Philippines, health activists remain worried about the impact his presidency might have on the status of human rights in the country

For Madrid’s health workers, the strike for better conditions is about the spirit of primary care

Primary health care physicians in the Madrid region have been on strike since November 21, fighting for a higher budget allocation for primary health care and a better health system for all

Video: Nurses in UK's public health system NHS start historic strike

NHS nurses across UK voted to take this strike action in their fight for fair pay and safer working conditions. On December 15 and 20, 100,000 nurses are set to walk off their jobs across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Short reads

Israeli repression harms Palestinian health as world marks Human Rights Day

Israel is targeting health and social organizations in Palestine and deliberately disrupting their work. The impact on the health of Palestinians is enormous

Data speaks

Hunger in Africa continues to grow: Atlas of African Health Statistics

Hunger and malnutrition have been on the rise all over the world. In 2021, there were 150 million more hungry people than in 2019. The situation remains particularly bad in Africa, where more than 20 percent of the population was facing hunger last year, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region.

Africa recorded the highest prevalence of undernourishment among all regions. In 2020, 20.83 percent of the population in East, West, and Southern Africa was undernourished, compared to 8.41 percent in WHO’s Middle East and North Africa region, and 2.52 percent in the European Union. New data indicates that undernourishment in Africa rose even more the following year,  reaching 21 percent in 2021.

Source: Atlas of African Health Statistics 2022: Health situation analysis of the WHO African Region. Brazzaville: WHO Regional Office for Africa; 2022.

Sub-Saharan Africa was also the region facing the biggest increase in food insecurity since 2015. The prevalence of food insecurity in this part of the continent was double the global average. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that food insecurity in the region rose steadily between 2015 and 2020. In 2020, 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa was undernourished. That means that one quarter of the population of Africa - 346 million people - was facing the consequences of a food crisis as they were living through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prevalence of food insecurity in the WHO African Region, 2020, FAO

Source: Atlas of African Health Statistics 2022: Health situation analysis of the WHO African Region. Brazzaville: WHO Regional Office for Africa; 2022.

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