Right to Health and Health Care Campaign Update, February 2008

18 Feb 2008

In this Update: Funds for Asia and Middle East/North Africa participation now available! / Funding Criteria / Campaign Media and Communications Team forming / Upcoming Meetings / Have a virtual meeting with the coordinators via Skype / Campaign FAQs / Country Updates.

Funds for Asian and Middle East/North Africa participation now available!

We invite PHM partners from the Asia and MENA regions to apply for funds to support their activism for the right to health through participation in the Right to Health and Health Care Campaign (RTHHCC). Please see the criteria for receiving funds below. Once again, we remind everyone that the funds will be available on a "first come, first served" basis and are not intended to cover all your expenses. We are trying to share the limited funds we have with as many groups as possible and get the campaign started in these regions. More funds may be available in later phases of the campaign if we are successful in raising them.

Funding Criteria

We have funds to give to PHM country circles to carry out the campaign. To receive these funds a country circle must meet certain criteria to ensure that there is a structure in place to use the funds effectively and to account for the use of the funds.

These criteria are:

  1. A PHM circle must be formed, if there isn't one in the country already. The country circle is composed of individuals and organizations that endorse the People's Charter for Health and operate under its principles. The country circle can undertake any activities it wants to, one of the possible activities being the Right to Health Care Campaign.
  2. A committee to carry out the campaign must be formed.
  3. The committee must have the participation of at least 3 different organizations
  4. The committee must have at least 2 meetings in different parts of the country to present the concept of the campaign and enlist participation from groups and individuals.
  5. The committee must select (through some kind of open process) one person to be the main country contact for the campaign. The role of this person is to facilitate communication between the global coordinators and the local campaign and facilitate people to get involved.
  6. The committee must select (through some kind of open process) one organization that will serve as the fiscal sponsor for the campaign in that country. This organization will receive and distribute the campaign funds and be responsible for the accounting requirements we must maintain.
  7. You must report to the global coordinating group what you have done; who the participating organizations and individuals are; who the country contact is (including full name, address, phone number and email); and which organization will be the fiscal sponsor (including full name, address, phone number, email, bank account information, and the names of the director and contact person in that organization).

Funds will be distributed on a "first come, first served" basis - those circles that meet the above criteria will receive funds until they are used up. It is important to note that the amount given out will be small and that each country will have to do some of its own fund raising in order to carry out all the activities it would like to do. Participants should be aware that the first amount of money will be given to carry out the initial mobilization and assessment. We are reserving some funds to be distributed later for country strategy meetings and Phase 2. If we receive more grants, we will have more support to give.

All committees must meet these requirements to receive funds. Well-established PHM circles are not exempt.

Campaign Media and Communications Team forming

We have some fantastic people who will be starting a media and communications team for the campaign. They will be designing an easy-to-read pamphlet with basic information about the right to health and the campaign that can be downloaded from the web and translated into other languages. They also will be working on radio scripts that can be distributed through existing community radio networks.

If you are making your own informational materials for your campaign, please send them to us. It helps to see different ideas, and we can combine the best elements of what we receive. If you would like to work with this team, please send send an email to Laura and Claudio (emails below).

Upcoming meetings: AWID Forum, ESCR-Net Strategy meeting

Representatives of the RTHHCC will be at both the Association for Women's Rights in Development Forum in Cape Town, South Africa November 14-17, 2008 and the ESCR-Net Strategy Meeting in Nairobi.

Caroline Mubaira from Community Working Group on Health, Zimbabwe, will participate in discussions on action around the right to health at the ESCR-net meeting. The meeting was scheduled for March but has been postponed due to the violence that has erupted in Kenya.

Sylvie Niombo from AZUR Development, Congo, has submitted a panel to the AWID forum on women's involvement in building a movment for the right to health via the RTHHCC. Sylvie has been playing an important role promoting and coordinating campaign activities in francophone Africa.

We appreciate both Caroline and Sylvie's work for the campaign. If you plan to be at either of these meetings, please let us know.

Have a virtual meeting with the coordinators via Skype

A few weeks ago, Laura "attended" a meeting of the PHM circle in Brazil via Skype. She was able to talk about the campaign and answer questions from the people at the meeting. If you can access a computer with a broadband connection, Laura and/or Claudio (or other PHM activists you might want to talk to), can attend your meeting, too.

Not every group may have this kind of technology, but we should take advantage of it where we can. Let us know if you are interested and we can set a date.

Campaign FAQs

Answers to some questions we have received lately...

  1. Once we start conducting the evaluation study, should we work towards ensuring that the whole guide will be carried out? The 5-step process of the guide is more important than which specific indicators are used or which issues addressed. If you answer all or almost all of the questions you will have a complete evaluation of the national health system, but that might be beyond the capacity of your group. There might be certain elements that are more strategically important to focus on in your country. That is up to you all to decide.
    The guide is not meant to limit what the national campaigns can work on, but to define one common area of evaluation (the national health system) and an evaluation framework to standardize the campaign internationally. The 5-step process in the guide can be used to assess the human rights impact of any policy.
    The reason why the 5-step process is important is that it provides legal legitimacy to the claims the campagin will make at the end. We have seen groups claiming human rights violations without documenting them properly. For example, just because a person says s/he wasn't well served by a health care facility doesn't mean that a human rights violation has occurred. Also, descrimination against a group can't be claimed from the charges of just a few members of that group. We want to show that there are systemic problems, not just some mistakes or a few "bad apples".
  2. If we don't need to use all the indicators, which indicators should not be left aside? Whatever is used should be followed through the 5 steps. For example if you want to examine the systemic discrimination against a certain group, then indicators relating to that group should be followed throughout the 5 steps. You can also start out more general and and then focus on the regions, problems or groups that seem to be the worst affected.
  3. Considering that the Assessment Guide is a major project and its activities should be planned within an agreed strategy, could we split up the guide into various sub-projects so that each group (organization) can carry out a specific part? Yes, each group should take on what is most within their "expertise." Legal people can focus on the first step - defining what are the commitments of the government. A local health council can look at their own local indicators. Also, if information is not available or is not reliable, they can conduct their own investigation, like an inspection of local health center or hospital using the standards in the Guide or government policy standards for health centers.
  4. If we can split up the work of the Guide, could each group (organization) be accountable for its own budget? Internally to your PHM circle, yes, it can be done that way. But there must be only one organization that is accountable to the PHM Global Secretariat for the overall reporting on the funds we have given you are spent.

Country Updates

One very important part of this campaign is sharing strategies, knowledge, and successes between participants. We are creating new ways of making human rights real. Please send us the specifics about what your campaign committee is doing. What are the people involved with the campaign saying? When they look at the situation with their health system, what problems concern them? What ideas are emerging to address those problems? Has there been anything about what you are doing in newspapers, on the radio, or on the internet? Here are summaries of some of the reports we have received.

Campaign Advances in Uruguay

Last November, 300 people from 16 of the 19 departments of Uruguay and representatives form Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador, participated in the 3rd Uruguayan Social Forum on Health and the First South American Social Forum on Health. With the support of PHM a workshop on the right to health took place as part of the Right to Health and Health Care Campaign in Uruguay.

The workshop was organized with an introduction to the theme in the plenary (during which no other activity was taking place). Later the participants were distributed into 4 subgroups of 50-60 persons. The groups worked from the principles established in General Comment 14 in which the obligations of states are established. One group worked on the health system. Another worked on the social determinants of health. Both groups identified human rights violations on the part of the state, and the role that civil society has to play to make these violations visible and reach a situation of an effective guarantee of rights.

Several key elements of the obligation to respect, protect and realize the right to health were suggested and some recommendations on how to proceed were established. But fundamentally a set of challenges for the state and civil society were agreed upon

Challenges for the state:

  • Not to close itself off; to be open to what the community has to say
  • To assign resources to programs that effectively integrate primary level health teams with human resources in the social sciences, social work and psychology
  • To rapidly train more human resources in health
  • To articulate the health care sector with other sectors that deal with the social determinents of health
  • To guarantee the right to health care with universal access
  • To achieve equity
  • To protect the people from abuses by third parties

Challenges for civil society, all of us:

  • To commit ourselves and get out of our passivity
  • To think about health as something to be constucted, not as something given. It is in our hands to construct the other health that is possible.
  • To develop our abilities
  • To promote links, articulation and strategic alliances
  • To take care of the the social and emotional aspects of working together
  • To emphasize collective approaches
  • To actively claim realization of human rights
  • ALAMES Uruguay will continue working on the RTH report in Uruguay. From the systematization of the workshop and report, we think that in the next few months we will have a fitting proposal for the RTHC for the next 2 years. Then we will seek agreements with the participants of the Forum and other new groups that we can invovle in the process.

News from Guatemala

The campaign in Guatemala is led by the Movement Ciudadano por la Salud (Citizens' Movement for Health - MCS), a coalition of 4 networks: CEDIM, CEIBA, ASECSA, CONGCOOP. Each network consists of community-based organizations in rural areas of Guatemala, among them: traditional birth attendants, community health workers, community farming associations, and bilingual (indigenous and western) community education councils. The campaign is part of their comprehensive strategic plan working on health, human rights and equity that includes 4 components: citizen participation, research, advocacy, and communication. Involvement of the grassroots membership in each component is promoted by building capacity, focusing on local events, and using local languages. The RTHHCC Assessment Guide is being adapted to elicit the everyday challenges and rights violations experienced by citizens living in socially deprived rural areas. Citizens describe with their own words the effects of systematic discrimination (by the state) against the fulfilment of social, economic and cultural rights (with emphasis on health rights). The central stand of the campaign report will be that the level of inequities faced by rural indigenous communities is not an accident of ineffective social policy but the result of historic discrimination. The accomplishments of the campaign so far include two workshops to share knowledge and build analytical skills on the themes of globalization, human rights, health policy and health systems, neoliberalism and social determinants of health. MCS has actively participated in the discussion of a new national health system law. The coalition has had important contributions arguing for a health system that is universal and inclusive of all citizens.

Activities of the People's Health Front of Ecuador

Throughout 2007 FNSPE was very active on several issues in Ecuador all related to the right to health. These include the RTHHCC, the struggle against large scale transnational mining, the implementation of the medial school law and participation in the drafting of a new constitution.

Specifically related to the campaign they have held community workshops in rural villages and marginal urban neighborhoods, leading tot he formation of local FNSPE in 7 provinces. The workshop themes are: HIV/AIDS epidemic and its prevention; cervical cancer and the pap test; water and health; and the right to health care. Adults and youth participated enthusiastically in the discussions and in the development of the workshop conclusions and resolutions.

All FNSPE activities have fed into their constitutional text proposal on health, environment and social security.

News from Benin

PHM Benin plans to hold its official campaign launch March 1. They have begun collecting data and using questionnaires to document the situation in the health care facilities. They are also gathering peoples stories about their experiences in the health system.

Finally we would like to welcome the people and organizations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are the latest campaign committee to receive funding. We look forward to getting to know them and working with them on the campaign.


Laura Turiano and Claudio Schuftan
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