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The threats confronting Global health: Are we safe?
By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, Ghanadot

Accra, Aug 10, Ghanadot - The right to good health care is one of the most fundamental human rights for everyone to enjoy the highest standard of health.

It is probably a trite observation that global health has improved by quantum leaps since Pasteur discovered penicillin. There have been impressive and growing advances in medicine and medical technology, in the conditions under which pharmaceutical products are manufactured and distributed, in the science and art of drug dispensing, in nursing, pediatrics, public health care delivery, and in caring for the terminally ill.

Indeed, humanity has also made great strides in confronting the menace posed by all manner of epidemics.

The scourge of yaws and small-pox are no longer with us, and guinea worm infestation is on the decline around the world, whilst polio is largely, on its way out.

However, malaria remains a huge concern, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific countries, taking a devastating toll on women and children.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation (WHO) report 2007, entitled “A safer Future: Global Public Health Security in the 21st Century”, enumerated the following as global public health threats in the 21st century:

 Epidemic-prone diseases such as cholera, yellow fever and epidemic meningococcal diseases,

Food borne diseases outbreaks from microbial contamination of chemicals and toxins.

Accidental outbreaks: accidental release of infectious agents arising mainly from breaches in bio-safety measures,

Deliberate and malicious emission of dangerous pathogens such as the anthrax letters in the US in 2001,

Toxic chemical accidents, radio-nuclear accidents and environmental disasters.

However, equal compelling also is the socio-political context within which health is located and experienced, as well as the ramifications for health and safety of the key determinants of health that often get neglected in discourses and practical efforts to improve and secure global health.

The safety and well-being of humanity is endangered by numerous factors which are more social and political than biological and medical.

The scourge of wars has replaced the scourge of yaws, and internecine conflicts kill, maim and dislocate more people than epidemics.

At the just-ended Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) conference held in Accra, Ghana, a Legal Practitioner, Professor Ken Attafuah noted that “The health of millions of people, particularly in growing democracies, is threatened every day more by the nefarious behaviours of evil people such as crooked politicians, corrupt public officials and common criminals than by viruses, germs and pathogens”.

He added that white collar crimes such as corruption, embezzlement of public funds and the award of sweetheart contracts worsen the poverty of the citizenry.

Mass anxiety occasioned by politically-induced ethnic strife and violence, rampant abuse of authority by public office holders, naked show of power with impunity, and heinous predatory crimes such as armed robberies and rapes. All these violate fundamental human rights and make millions of people sick.

Prof. Attafuah who is also, the Executive Director of the Justice and Human Rights Institute explained that the greatest threats to health, safety and existence of humanity inheres in such socio-political failings as human rights violations, including discriminatory treatment by individuals and nations/states, social and administrative injustices and abuse of power, inter-group conflicts, corruption, bad leadership and mal-governance.

Other primary threats to human health he said are environmental degradation and unsustainable development practices, terrorism, profiteering from gunrunning, human trafficking and drug trafficking, and self-destruction through illicit drug use.

According to him, each of these social and political conditions produces their own repertoire of health and safety challenges.

And they are far greater to combat than the deadliest strains of Ebola, HIV/AIDS and all their cousins and cross-cousins in the range of easily transmitted infections.

While, health scientists work tirelessly around the clock to improve human health through advances in fields such as bio-medical engineering, nursing, pharmacology and biotechnology, efforts at ending discrimination and the adverse effects of gross human rights violation such as the Nazi Holocaust, Apartheid and the Rwandan genocide still linger, as do the anguish and suffering of the victims and survivors. These violations enfeeble the human spirit.

The bulk of human suffering and misery derive not from only diseases but from the ill-treatment of mankind by mankind. Around the globe and through history, wars, coup d’etats, civil unrests, post-elections violence and crass abuse of power and authority have debilitating effects on individuals and who communities, accentuated ill-health and deepened human anguish.

On this continent, the West African Sub-region presents the best example of the worst kind, notably the prolong civil wars and political unrest in Chad, Cote D Ivoire , Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and recently Nigeria, among others, have caused stagnation in the health of millions of people including innocent children.

Prof. Attafuah admitted that millions of people in the Sudan, DR Congo, Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique have experienced far more suffering, misery and ill-health from political and social abuse and exploitation than the starvation, cholera and dysentery that eventually kill them.

Additionally, conflict drains more time, attention, blood, treasure and support from individuals and governments than disease and medical research. A case in point is the Iraq and in the worldwide counterterrorism efforts.

Prof Attafuah therefore suggested that to better ensure the health and well-being of individuals and collectivities, it is imperative that we improve the living conditions of our people, reduce health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health, combat all 17 forms of discrimination prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and related Conventions and Protocols.

But above all, governments must tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money and resources. Indeed, the abuse of power, in democratic societies, is a major site of ill-health for large numbers of people around the world.



Web www.ghanadot.com

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