Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child
During the 22nd session of the Human Right Council, a full day meeting on the rights of the child was organized on 7 March with a panel of various governmental and non-governmental contributors. This year”s meeting focused on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, which includes a wide range of concerns, from psychological and physical care to protection against violence, sexual exploitation and discrimination.
Ignacio Packer, Secretary General of Terre Des Hommes International Federation, was part of the panel. He was asked to provide his perspective on what was the biggest challenge to ensure universal health coverage for children and particularly those from discriminated communities. According to the TDHIF Secretary General, one of the most crucial goals to achieve is the removal of all financial barriers that can prevent children to have access to proper care and especially user fees which disappearance leads to very positive results in terms of health coverage, as shown in many experiences. But to provide quality services, both state and international funding must be assured and properly invested in information, formation of the staff, infrastructures and equipments. Health spending must be focused on mother, child and reproductive health. Studies show that a small increase in budget of the Ministry of health (as low as 10%) in many low-income countries is enough to completely remove user fees and result in important decrease of child mortality and illnesses.
Various representatives of states contributed to this meeting and some topics were often addressed. The issue of children infected by HIV/AIDS is a major concern. Only 28% of them are treated worldwide and the infection from mother to child on pregnancy, which can be avoided by administrating anti-viral, is far from being eradicated. Another issue addressed was the problem of discriminated and marginalized communities, whose children are often deprived of health and social services and unaware of their rights.
The various contributors to this meeting tried to propose some solutions and plans of action. To achieve the task of improving health care for children worldwide, it is important to act in three phases: monitoring, reviewing and taking remedial actions and turn it into a permanent cycle. Health issues must be analysed in medical, social, political and legal frameworks and specific indicators must be established. Clear definitions on what are the minimal health services that everyone should benefit must be stated and be translated into laws. Finally, the participants emphasised on the importance of cooperation between governments, international organizations, medical and social staffs and members of the civil society.
Universal Health Coverage for Children in the post UN development framework
On the occasion of the Human Rights Council, Terre des Hommes International Federation also organised a side-event on 4 March called “Universal Health Coverage for Children in the post UN development framework: a specific focus on children in the context of migration”.
About 50 persons participated in the side-event representing governments, international organisations and NGOs.
The first contributor, Jean-Pierre Papart of Terre des Hommes Foundation, described a project of the organization in Burkina Faso. In this country, more than 40% of the health coverage fees were in charge of the patient. This represented a far too big expense for people living in poverty and was an obstacle for universal access to healthcare. In 2007, Terre des Hommes introduced a system of exemption of the patient fee, which the support of the EU. After 5 years, it shows excellent results: there are 3 times more children”s medical consultations and the child mortality decreased of 13%. It also lowered the cost of medical care due to a better control of drugs usage. This shows that universal access to healthcare is enforceable at affordable costs.
Davide Mosca, Director of the Migration Health Division of the International Organization for Migrations, reminded that migrants contribute to the global economy and that migration is a way to redistribute the wealth. But unfortunately, migrants are often discriminated and minors are frequently considered as migrants before being seen as children. In many countries, migrants don”t have a full access to healthcare. To improve the situation, the Global Consultation on Health of Migrant (2010) has set 4 principles:
1) Monitoring Migrant Health
2) Setting policy and legal frameworks
3) Implement a migrant-sensitive health system
4) Encourage partnership and cooperation between countries
Isabel Obadiaru, Project manager at the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights, introduced the PICUM platform, which is focused on the question of undocumented migrants. An interview with a migrant who strived to obtain a legal status to raise her children in the best conditions, illustrated how restrictive migration policies can affect children and how administrative barriers can limit their access to proper health and social services. Besides procedures and administrative conditions, there are also other obstacles i.e. discrimination, language and cultural barriers, preventing undocumented families from accessing healthcare. Through a special public health strategy (FemmesTISCHE project) APDH sensitizes disadvantaged migrant women to their right to health and provides specific information to facilitate access to healthcare providers for them and for their children.”
Alice Farmer, from Human Right Watch, made a contribution that focused on the problem of migrant children, who are often put in detention on their arrival. This confinement with adults has strong impacts on their mental and physical health. Children in detention often witness violent acts and are sometimes subject to various forms of abuse. Alice Farmer gave exampled of states that systematically put migrants in detention before any age verification. Proving that someone is a minor can take several months during which the child lives in uncertainty and can develop several psychological damages that can ultimately lead to traumas, depressions and suicide attempts. Alice Farmed concluded that detention centers for migrants are no place for children and exhorted authorities to stop this practice.
More information on Human Rights Watch’s work in migrant children can be found here:
In the same thematic, Jeroen Van Hove presented the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children, which he coordinates. The association argues that children have the right to speak and to be involved in the decision making. It also advocates for alternatives to detention for migrants. Amongst many actions, the campaign organized a theatre representation where 6 young migrants have been able to express, in their own way, their feelings and experiences of migration. The campaign also offers the possibility to all children to leave a video recorded message of support, accessible on the website:
The final message delivered during the side-event is that best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in the enforcement of immigration laws and cooperation between states, NGOs and International organizations on these particular issues should be promoted.
During the Human Rights Council, Terre des Hommes also associated itself to oral statements with several other NGOs on child protection as a fundamental part of the post-2015 development agenda, and on health and child detention.