WHO EMRO | World Health Day 2024 highlights the right to health | News

WHO EMRO | World Health Day 2024 highlights the right to health | News

World Health Day 2024: My health, my right

7 April 2024, Cairo, Egypt – “My health, my right”, the theme for World Health Day 2024, is a reminder that health is a fundamental right that must be ensured for every human being.

Health as a human right is recognized in the WHO Constitution, and the right to health has been central to WHO’s identity and mandate since the start.

Health is also recognized as a human right in the constitution of at least 140 countries, including 20 countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. All WHO Member States have ratified at least one treaty that recognizes the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

This rarely translates into action on the ground, however. As a result, the right to health of millions of people globally is increasingly under threat.

At least 4.5 billion people – more than half of the world’s population – are not fully covered by essential health services. Such a shocking reality calls for urgent action by all responsible parties.

The right to health closely relates to and relies upon the realization of other human rights. These include the rights to life, food, housing, work, education, privacy, access to information, freedom from torture, and the freedoms of association, assembly and movement. The right to health not only includes access to health services but also access to economic stability, quality education, employment, housing, decent life amenities and other aspects that contribute to health.

WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Hanan Balkhy highlighted the need to realize the right to health as a top priority: “In our Region, beset by public health events, outbreaks and an unprecedented number of graded emergencies, and home to 38% of all people in need of humanitarian aid globally, the call for the right to health is urgent.”

Diseases and disasters are increasingly common causes of death and disability worldwide, and conflicts are devastating communities, causing death, violence, hunger, displacement and psychological distress. Socioeconomic factors, the increased prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, and the climate emergency only worsen the situation and present a great threat to human rights.

This year’s World Health Day campaign is a reminder that all segments of society, including policy-makers, communities, civil society and individuals, should contribute to protect the right to health and ensure other health-related human rights. It explores how policy-makers can uphold international commitments and discuss actions to take at the global, national and local levels to achieve the right to health for all, including the most vulnerable.

Addressing the social determinants of health is essential to ensure that health systems respond to the needs of all members of society. Said Dr Balkhy: “The need for action to address injustices, reduce health inequities, safeguard human rights and prioritize the needs of those furthest behind has never been greater.”

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