High-level continental seminar on right to health and social protection in Africa


Health is a right, but in Africa it is estimated that up to 38% of the population delay or forgo health care due to its high costs and out-of-pocket expenditures. Africa is the continent with the greatest proportion of the population not having access to social protection and adequate health care, and where human needs are the greatest.

Limited local production and dependence on external markets and financing are barriers to equitable access to medicines and other medical supplies in Africa. All African countries are net importers of medical and pharmaceutical products, with most of them importing between 70% and 90% of the medicines they consume.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating consequences in Africa demonstrate that there is still a long way to go in terms of implementation and domestication of the various international, continental, regional and national human rights instruments.

To address these shortcomings, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) held the High-Level Regional Seminar on the Right to Health and Social Protection in Africa, in Dakar, Senegal, from 8 to 10 December. It aimed to raise awareness among member states, national human rights institutes, nongovernmental organizations and other partners on the issue of deficient health-care systems and insufficient social protection coverage, to share best practices regarding health-care systems and social protection and to formulate key recommendations for implementation.

“We should not have a handout, but solve our own health problems in Africa. Dependence on international financing makes progress vulnerable,” said Maria Teresa Manuela, an ACHPR Commissioner and a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Financing the right to health is a strong area of collaboration between UNAIDS and ACHPR that will be crystallized in a report to be launched in 2022.

“Pandemics can be a catalyst for transformative financing reforms that uphold the right to health for those left behind. Lessons from the AIDS response and many other leadership examples in Africa need to be leveraged to further mobilize leadership and investments to end AIDS and other pandemics, end inequalities and accelerate realization of the right to health for all,” said Patrick Brenny, the Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Western and Central Africa. He encouraged stakeholders to generate evidence to demonstrate the impact on the right to health of financing strategies and proposed fiscal policies, to increase development assistance in more than 35 countries and to promote the greater participation of parliamentarians in the financing dialogue, bridging the gap with those who make fiscal decisions.

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