UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima says that the right to health is eluding the poor and people trying to lift themselves out of poverty are being crushed by the unacceptably high costs of health care, with at least half the world’s population unable to access essential health services.
A group in a hospital setting
The UN agency devoted to ending
AIDS as a public health threat is calling on top politicians and governments
across the world to ensure the right to quality healthcare is upheld, and not
just a privilege to be enjoyed by the wealthy.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie
Byanyima says that the right to health is eluding the poor and people trying to
lift themselves out of poverty are being crushed by the unacceptably high costs
of health care, with at least half the world’s population unable to access
essential health services.
This is contained in a press
release issued as the World Economic Forum gets fully underway in Davos,
Switzerland. The independent international Forum (WEF) is an annual gathering,
committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political,
academic and other leaders in reshaping the economic agenda.
Byanyima observed that nearly 100
million people are pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for
health care, and more than 930 million people - around 12 per cent of the
world’s population - spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets on
“The richest one per cent benefit
from cutting-edge science while the poor struggle to get even basic health
care,” she added, citing that in many countries, people are denied health care
or receive poor quality health care because of unaffordable user fees and the absence of publicly financed healthcare.
According to Byanyima, when health spending is cut
or inadequate, it is the poor people and people on the margins of society,
especially women and girls, who lose their right to health first, and they have
to bear the burden of caring for their families.
She expressed dismay that delivering
health care for all is a political choice that too many governments are not
making and that tax avoidance on the part of the top one per cent, and the wealth that they control, continues to deny resources to healthcare the world
“It is unacceptable that rich
people and big companies are avoiding taxes and ordinary people are paying
through their ill-health” said the UNAIDS chief. “Big companies must pay their
fair share of taxes, protect employee rights, provide equal pay for equal work
and provide safe working conditions for all, especially women.”
Debt is also posing a serious
threat to Africa’s economy, health and development, resulting in big cuts in
social spending to ensure debt repayment, the agency notes.
According to the International
Monetary Fund, as of April 2019 half of low-income countries in Africa were
either in debt distress or at a high risk of being so.
Another driver of ill health is
the denial of human rights said UNAIDS. According to the World Bank, more than
one billion women lack legal protection against domestic violence and close to
1.4 billion women lack legal protection against what they term, domestic
“In the next decade, we can end
AIDS as a public health threat and achieve universal health coverage”, said Ms.
Byanyima, calling on governments everywhere to “tax fairly, provide publicly
funded quality health care, guarantee human rights and achieve gender equality
for all—it is possible.”