Health and Human Rights

Health and human rights are inextricably linked.

Human rights abuses fuel epidemics, increase vulnerability to disease, deprive children of healthy development, and keep marginalized groups from education and services needed to maintain health.

DOW’s projects aim to fulfill the right to health as articulated in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Health is a human right.  Drawing its mandate from the ICESCR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international treaties and provisions of international law, DOW’s projects address specific health care needs of populations that are underserved, or in some cases ignored outright, by the governments responsible for their welfare.

Human rights violations negatively effect health.  Human rights violations such as torture, rape, and other physical abuse effect health in clearly discernible ways – through the scars left on the bodies and in the minds of survivors.  The health consequences of other human rights abuses are perhaps less clear at first glance, but equally damaging.  By preventing access to available and vital prevention, treatment, or care, violations that marginalize and exclude groups of people such as women, children, or minorities can have devastating effects on health.   Discrimination and stigma fuel the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and prevent the sick from seeking or receiving treatment.

Changing the conditions that fuel pandemics.   Doctors of the World-USA (DOW) takes a rights-based approach aimed at improving health through partnerships with government and civil society groups in the communities where we serve.  Our projects mobilize communities and build the capacity of local actors to create locally owned, long-term solutions.  By taking a transformative approach and by training local communities to advocate for better conditions, DOW interventions simultaneously meet health needs and work towards fulfilling the right to health as recognized under international law.

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