Summary: Working Group on Health Promotion
Vulnerable populations and their access to health and medicine
||17 July 2002, 11:30-13:00
Moderator(s):|| • Ms. Leila Enayat-Seraj, World Health Organization (Former)|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. Tesfamicael Ghebrehiwet, International Council of Nurses (ICN)|
• Ms. Regina Keith, Save the Children Fund
• Ms. Joanna Koch, Conference of NGOs (CONGO)
• Ms. Homira Nassery, World Bank
||Kelvin Cheung (ICVolunteers)
||Health, Vulnerable, population, grassroot levels, children, elderly, women, Afghanistan
it has been agreed that health is a fundamental human right, various factors such as poverty, exploitation, inequality, injustice and violence marginalize many social groups and peoples and prevent them from asserting this social, economical, political and civil right. In most cases, these factors are at the root of ill health and can even lead to the death of the most marginalized and vulnerable peoples. Among these are children (especially girls), women, the
elderly, the disabled, the displaced, war-victims and indigenous peoples. For
such people, health is a critical human right and should override shortsighted economical concerns, such as health seen only as a stepping stone to economic development).
Most would agree that all human beings should have the right to health and to
treatment— but is this truly the case? What happens with those who do not have a strong enough voice to demand this right, such as children, people on the move or war victims? What the international actors do in order to ensure the best access to health for these people?
The panellists discussed the following 4 topics:
- How to save the children's vision
- Nutrition in a holistic framework
- A girl-child study
- Afghan women
The discussion session drew attention to a series of health problems and the ways in which NGOs can help to tackle them. Particular emphasis was laid on the health of vulnerable populations, including children, women and the elderly. Each speaker provided insights about the specific population groups with and for whom they work.
Ms. Keith used the work of the NGO, "The Save the Children Fund",
to highlight the urgency of problems concerning children's health, particularly in Africa and Asia. She advocated that NGOs such as "Save the Children" could make a difference by:
- Gathering evidence of the impact of national and international policies on children's health;
- Working together to tackle inequalities in access to the basic services.
Dr. Ghebrehiwet of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) focused upon another specific group of vulnerable populations: girls aged between ten and fourteen living in urban areas. Through an upcoming study of girls' health,
ICN hopes to provide key information to policy makers and service providers. It advocates strengthening national health and other services for this often-neglected population group that has to face major biological and social changes.
Ms. Koch, Convenor of the CONGO Working Group on Nutrition, believed that one way to tackle health-related problems is to look at the nutrition needs of people within a holistic framework. She advocated, "you cannot stop hunger without looking at the environment, the improvement of the agriculture, the access to water and adequate sanitation, the intestinal infestations and the cultural beliefs and traditions".
Ms. Nassery of the World Bank raised an interesting point about the general public's misunderstanding of women's situation in Afghanistan. Ms. Nassery believes that women in Afghanistan are
especially vulnerable—not because they are victimised by the Taliban, as often portrayed by the
media—but because of a fundamental lack of basic health services, including clean water and adequate medical services— problems to which NGOs must pay attention.
Delegates from Pakistan and the Ivory Coast highlighted the discrepancy between the official figures of spending on health from international organizations (e.g.
The World Health Organization) and the actual amount of work done to ameliorate health problems at grassroots levels.
A few NGOs asked how to obtain adequate sources of funding for the many worthwhile projects related to health. In response to these questions, speakers advocated for greater transparency in the work of the international organizations and for better communication among all the members working within civil society in order to tackle the problems of funding.
Conclusions and recommendations
Major points included:
- The need for a continuous, bold and active participation by all those working in the area of health;
- The need for strengthening the interaction between NGOs and other international organizations, e.g. UN agencies;
- The need for accountability and greater transparency in international organizations to ensure that benefits can be conferred to the grassroots levels.
The Working Group finally pointed out that health is a fundamental human right for all people, irrespective of their gender, age, disability or political situation.
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