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Page added on September 12, 2012
In Sierra Leone, we ought to believe in health care as a human right, especially now, as the Government of Sierra Leone is paving rough health-edges to a truism of credence on “health is wealth”. We must acknowledge that, a sick or disease claimed country is faced with a diminishing labour response as its death rate increases, but a country that has a healthy citizenship base produces an impressive output to the International labour market.
In addition to the meaningful changes instilled on the country’s health system, coupled with the achievements made so far by the Free Health Care program for pregnant women, lactating mothers and under 5 children the government of Sierra Leone initiated, the President of Sierra Leone declared the cholera epidemic a “humanitarian crisis”. Thus, a National Emergency came to action with a high level Presidential Cholera Task Force established to oversee the coordination, mobilization of resources and guidance response.
Briefly, Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of bacterium Vibrio cholerae present in faecally contaminated water or food. Most of the Freetown’ central business district and eastern communities are linked to insufficient access to safe water and improper sanitation, and it has been these places where the epidemic’s deathly impact had intensified. These areas can be even more dramatic because of their poor environmental infrastructures. The country is facing complex emergency on vulnerable cholera outbreak particularly when the November 17 Polls stands on top of the national hill. However, the government, I suppose is grateful to friendly organisations in the likes of Medicines San Frontier for their massive efforts in the fight of the epidemic by opening free Community Health Centers across the country.
The impression of the Human Right Community overall when Sierra Leone is being proactive in attendance to health care in a direction principled in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights throws the country into an international limelight progressing on the Human Rights Index, with their hopefulness of the country climbing the new stage following a Free, Fair, and Non-violence Elections. Seeking the views of accredited Human Rights Activists around the globe, I joined Human Rights colleagues on an online forum to reflect “How education has so far, been recognized as a Human Right”. That forum on Saturday, September 8 2012, was to commemorate World Literacy Day and I was invited to represent Sierra Leone because of an Interview I rendered the British Broadcasting Corporation’s [BBC’s] former network Africa, a current affairs program with Lansana Fofanah on September 8 2009.
During this forum, on last Saturday, at the time of Any Other Business, AOB as generally known, I request the participants to give a fair view on Health as a Human Right in Sierra Leone. The networked participation enlightened my gloomed fear as they overwhelmingly praised my lovely Sierra Leone’s approach towards Health as Human Rights.
Four Human Rights Professors from India, Germany, Australia and the United States of America respectively agreed that, within the sub-region, President Ernest Bai Koroma and His government would in no doubt rise positively above the Human Right threshold in the nearest future of Modern Time.
Among the participants at the online forum was a British Human Rights Professor who came to Sierra Leone in those late years of ex-President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabba. This British Professor said, “Sierra Leone is the country he did the last Public Lecture on Human Right and Democracy in West African region. The learned professor went further to recall that during his assignment in Sierra Leone there was nothing like the proudly made 30% quota women own today.
Via the internet facility networked to provide us with audio-visual participation, a female Human Rights Advocate, a Swiss who worked in Freetown before, quickly expressed satisfaction on the progress Sierra Leone has made to protect economic, social and cultural rights of children and women by enacting the Devolution of Estate Act and the Traditional and Customary Marriage Act. She referenced to the forum how women and children victims left in the wicked hands deceased family/relatives that fearlessly seize the deceased properties to allow pro-poor women and children survivors to swim across the pain and grieve of the multi-facet swamps of poverty time may bring.
On the issue of Cholera, where the provision of potable water and sanitation is challenging constitutes also a risk factor. In consequence, it is of paramount importance to be able to rely on accurate surveillance data to monitor the evolution of the outbreak and to put in place adequate intervention measures to coordinate the different sectors involved is essential.
The Safer Future Youth Development Program and UNICEF will agree with me that, WHO calls for the cooperation of all to limit the effect of cholera on populations. In fact, these two organisations are working tirelessly in perspective in a preventive approach through the Water Sanitation and Hygiene-WASH and Community Led Total Sanitation-CLTS projects they have been undertaking. Thus, we discovered that the areas where UNICEF and Safer Future Youth Development Program are operating accounts for little cases since the Cholera epidemic to suggest that Sierra Leone is working on a very good Implementation Partnership between Local NGOs and United Nation’s Agencies. Lastly, the September 8 2012 forum on Education shared a Human Right Fellow’s experience that I would like to share with you.
Independently produced for Weekend Edition Sunday by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
I believe in health care as a human right. I’ve worked as a doctor in many places, and I’ve seen where to be poor means to be bereft of rights.
I saw early on, still just a medical student, the panicky dead-end faced by so many of the destitute sick: a young woman dying in childbirth; a child writhing in the spasms of a terrible disease for which a vaccine has existed — for more than a century; a friend whose guts were irreparably shredded by bacteria from impure water; an 8 year old caught in cross-fire.
Li mouri bet — what a stupid death, goes one Haitian response.
Fighting such “stupid deaths” is never the work of one, or even of a small group. I’ve had the privilege of joining many others providing medical care to people who would otherwise not be able to get it. The number of those eager to serve is impressive, and so is the amount that can be accomplished. I believe that stupid deaths can be averted; we’ve done it again and again. But this hard and painful work has never yet been an urgent global priority.
The fight for health as a human right, a fight with real promise, has so far been plagued by failures. Failure because we are chronically short of resources. Failure because we are too often at the mercy of those with the power and money to decide the fates of hundreds of millions. Failure because ill health, as we have learned again and again, is more often than not a symptom of poverty and violence and inequality — and we do little to fight those when we provide just vaccines, or only treatment for one disease or another. Every premature death, and there are millions of these each year, should be considered a rebuke.
I know it’s not enough to attend only to the immediate needs of the patient in front of me. We must also call attention to the failures and inadequacy of our own best efforts. The goal of preventing human suffering must be linked to the task of bringing others, many others, into a movement for basic rights.
The most vulnerable — those whose rights are trampled, those rarely invited to summarize their convictions for a radio audience — still believe in human rights, in spite of — or perhaps because of — their own troubles. Seeing this in Haiti and elsewhere has moved me deeply and taught me a great deal.
I move uneasily between the obligation to intervene and the troubling knowledge that much of the work we do, praised as “humanitarian” or “charitable,” does not always lead us closer to our goal. That goal is nothing less than the refashioning of our world into one in which no one starves, drinks impure water, lives in fear of the powerful and violent, or dies ill and unattended. Of course such a world is a utopia, and most of us know that we live in a dystopia. But all of us carry somewhere within us the belief that moving away from dystopia moves us towards something better and more humane. I still believe this.
By Sheka B. A. Mansaray Jr.-076-545-595
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