The Right to Healthcare- The case of Sub-Saharan Africa

What is the right to health care?

The right to have access to health care services is a basic human right guaranteed by section 27 of the Constitution. Everyone has the right to access healthcare services, emergency medical treatment and medicine.

How has COVID-19 affected the provision of health services in Africa?

COVID-19 has disrupted the African population’s access to health services. Not only that, but it also threatens the progress that has been made in fighting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. In 2020, an unprecedented decline in access to health care services has been noted due to the
challenges both patients and medical services face. Many patients stopped seeking medical help due to fear of contracting COVID-19. In addition, patients have been restricted from accessing public transportation due to stay-at-home orders and limited public transportation. Medical professionals stopped offering some standard
medical services because they have been overwhelmed with treating COVID-19 patients. Sub-Saharan Africa has been affected the most by global vaccine inequity. In some parts of the world, people are lining up for their COVID-19 booster shot whereas, according to UNICEF “less than five per cent of the African population has
been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus”.

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, “only 0.7% of vaccines have gone to low-income countries so far”, even
though rich countries are stockpiling unused doses that will expire soon. This is quite alarming because African countries are at high risk of further outbreaks. The Saharan population is subject to rising poverty and hunger.

What has been done?

The UN tries to even out global vaccine distribution, known as COVAX yet it has failed to alleviate the vaccine shortage in poor countries. Wealthy countries agreed to donate the extra vaccines to low-income countries but the procedure is taking a lot of time.

The Education Plus Initiative was launched by UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women and aimed at empowering young women to achieve gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa through educating them about their rights.
In Cape, Town warehouses have been converted into spaces where scientists assembled to replicate Modern’s COVID-19 shot. These scientists are backed up by the World Health Organization (WHO) which coordinates vaccine research and production in South Africa. A step towards reducing healthcare disparities is to reconsider the channeling of SDRs- special drawing rights and prioritize the Sub-Saharan population’s access to healthcare.


Access to quality health care services is a fundamental human right. It is related to maintaining health, preventing disease and reducing premature death. This right should be guaranteed for everyone as it is linked with the principles of equality, non- discrimination and transparency. National health policies should be enforced to
strengthen national health systems.



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