There is a movement afoot in Jamaica, one designed to have people look with fresh eyes and through a human rights lens, at the health of women, their newborns and infants.
It is being marshalled by the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre and partners, the University of the West Indies’ Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, with their efforts entailed under the project titled “Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health in Jamaica”.
THE RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH
There are a range of human rights “directly implicated” by maternal morbidity and mortality, including:
- the right to life;
- the right to be free from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment;
- the right to privacy;
- the right to an effective remedy;
- the right to be equal in dignity;
- the right to education;
- the right to seek, receive and impart information;
- the right to freedom from discrimination;
- the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress; and
- the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health.
The rights-based approach to MNIH also affirms that maternal, newborn and infant morbidity and mortality cannot be reduced to simply the risk women and teenage girls run when, whether by choice or circumstance, they become pregnant.
Rather, states are obligated to ensure, by virtue of the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health, as one example, that maternal morbidity and mortality is given priority.
The promotion and protection of this right, according to Paul Hunt and Judith Bueno de Mezquita (2010), “demands actions that lead to a significant and sustained reduction in maternal mortality”.
Those actions include:
- ensuring access to goods and services, including sexual and reproductive health care and information;
- breaking down political, economic, social and cultural barriers that women face in accessing the interventions that can prevent maternal mortality; and
- participation by stakeholders in policy and service development.
“And it requires accountability for maternal mortality,” write Hunt and Bueno de Mezquita.
The WROC/UWI project is intended to spotlight these rights when it comes to #MNIH in Jamaica. This is with the goals to
- strengthen patients’ rights in #MNIH among members of the vulnerable population and other stakeholders, and
- enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to become involved in patients’ rights advocacy and health policy planning and monitoring, in relation to #MNIH.
The project team is working to realise those objectives through a variety of activities, including stakeholder consultations, the development of an advocacy plan and toolkit, and the development of curricula and training manuals, together with a public education and awareness campaign.
The 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, meanwhile, has adopted the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights.
In that resolution, the Council urged all states “to renew their political commitment to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity at the local, national, regional and international levels; and to strengthen their efforts to address multiple and intersecting inequalities and to remove all barriers” to access to sexual and reproductive health facilities, etc..
This, in order “to ensure full and effective implementation of their human rights obligations”, and their commitments to, for example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
With some 216,000 per 100,000 women dying globally each year; 43 children under 5 per 1,000 and 19 per 1,000 newborns, it is past time that we stepped up those efforts.
- Hunt, P. and Bueno de Mezquita, J. (2010). “Reducing maternal Mortality: The contribution of the right to the highest attainable standard of health”. University of Essex. Retrieved from: https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/reducing_mm.pdf
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Health/ReportMaternalMortality.pdf
- United Nations Human Rights Council (30 September 2016). Resolution 33/18: Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights. Retrieved from https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/849344/files/A_HRC_RES_33_18-EN.pdf