United Nations Human Rights Council
Hospitaller Brothers address the Social Forum
Br. Michael M. Koroma, a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, presently working in Sierra Leone as Chief Executive Officer of the Congregation’s health services, was invited to Geneva in order to address the Social Forum on the role of Frontline health workers in the promotion of human rights in caring for patients in the context of HIV/AIDS epidemics, Communicable diseases and other epidemics like Ebola and Zika. This was from 2-4 October, 2017.
The Social Forum is an annual 3-day meeting convened by the Human Rights Council. It is a unique space for open and interactive dialogue between civil society actors, representatives of member states, and intergovernmental organisations, on a theme chosen by the Council each year.
The theme of the 2017 session of the Social Forum is the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of the HIV epidemic and other communicable diseases and epidemics.
During the interactive dialogues, it was over emphasized that the right to health is an inclusive right encompassing both access to health services, goods and facilities and the determinants of health. We agreed that we could only achieve the Universal Health Coverage by 2030 where no one is left behind when access to health, zero non discrimination and de-criminalisation of drugs are ensured. Human Rights is fully realized when other rights including rights to food, housing, work, education, human dignity, life, non discrimination and equality are upheld.
At the end, after the 3-day sharing of experiences from different context, we identified concrete issues to be considered by States and other Stakeholders to ensure the promotion, protection and fulfillment of Human Rights. Some of them include: discrimination affects seriously access to health services, engagement of people makes a great difference in health service access, categorizing of diseases affects access to health services, access to health products is now driven by who you are and where you are born. It impacts monopoly on prices. Finally, data segregation is key to make visible key populations that are denied access.
As a way forward, we gathered that the world should stop talking and act now. Funding must be provided to organisations seeking to give access to health services. Human Rights must be on the top agenda by all. Barriers should be removed to enable civil societies break the silence and be given space to speak. All other government ministries should be engaged with the ministries of health in countries. There is the great need to improve the relationship between civil society, private sector, NGOs and State Government. The States are not able to reach all. Finally, health workers training curriculum should include Human Rights knowledge.
We realized also that for not-for-profit organisations, in trying to achieve SDGs 3, 10 and 17, we do not need to wait for governments to tell us from above. Already we are providing services because we feel and are convinced that it is the rights of the people to get access to these services at affordable cost.
We the St. John of God Brothers have not deviated from this direction since the origin of our mission. We have always stood for the promotion of human dignity, restoring life and ensuring that each person regains his or her optimum functioning in the society. Just few weeks back in Madrid, we just concluded a re-look at how we carry out our “goodness” by sharing others experiences and asking ourselves whether we are doing god the way it should be done and not our own way. Today, the dignity of the person, autonomy and access to the persons’ entitlements are not priviledegs but rights to be upheld and it is our duty as hospitallers to ensure each person gets back his or her dignity and no one should be left behind in giving access to health services.
In Africa today, we have a huge responsibility to strike the balance between providing services and ensuring no one is deprived access. We the Hospitaller Brothers should continue to engage the local Church, District or local governments and central governments so as to understand why they should establish MOUs with our facilities in order for us to deliver affordable services to key populations in our societies.