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Background

Health – a human right


Babys at a newborn nursery in Prizren, Kosovo.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 proclaims, in Article 25, that:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (…)."

Article 12 of the In­ter­national Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states,

"1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:
(a) The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy de­vel­op­ment of the child;

(b) The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;
(c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;
(d) The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness."

These clearly defined rights have not yet been realised in full.

Every year almost seven million children die before their fifth birthday, many of diseases that could have been prevented. That translates as about 19,000 deaths a day. Every day pregnancy and childbirth cost some 800 women around the world their lives, because no appropriate medical care was available. About 780 million people have no access to safe drinking water, and around 2.5 billion – more than one third of the world’s popu­la­tion – have to live without even basic sanitation.

Violation of the human right to health is a humanitarian disaster for the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries affected and a moral disaster for the rest of humankind.

Improving the health of people living in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries is therefore a priority area of German de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion. It focuses on the following:

  • Strengthening health systems, especially by training health workers, de­vel­op­ing social protection systems and the solidary-based financing of health care, as well as cross-sectoral approaches to promoting health;
  • Strengthening the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, including improving access to affordable medicines;
  • Empowering women and improving their options in regard to birth control, pregnancy and childbirth (sexual and reproductive health and rights).

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