Gareth Thomas: Basic healthcare for the world's poor should be a right, not a luxury

Share
Related Topics

Last week I was in Sierra Leone, where I met Aisata Jabbie, an 18 year old mother in agony after complications during a home birth. She couldn't afford to give birth in the local hospital.

She is just one of millions of mothers and children suffering from preventable diseases and conditions that a basic level of healthcare would cure. Yet the vast majority of the world's poorest people have no access to any kind of medical facilities, and those who do are often seen by untrained medical staff dealing with chronic shortages of medicine

The developing world needs health systems that can deal with the preventable diseases that so often prove fatal, that can recruit and train high quality staff, and that can provide medicine which can make the difference between life and death.

Most importantly, they need to provide these vital services free of charge.

User fees in developing world hospitals have created a barrier between the world's poorest people and basic healthcare for decades, and it is appalling that tens of millions die every year simply because they can’t afford to see a doctor.

It is stories like Aisata's which drove the UK's efforts at September's UN General Assembly (UNGA) to secure a commitment from leaders to abolish user fees in six of the worst-hit countries. Ten million people - the vast majority of them women and children - will now no longer see good health as a luxury but as a right.

On top of this commitment from Nepal, Malawi, Ghana, Liberia, Burundi and Sierra Leone we also secured an additional £3.2 billion health package from developed countries to ensure that the establishment of universal, free healthcare is matched by a radical improvement in services.

This week the UK, through the Department for International Development, announced £12 million to help make Liberia's UN commitment a reality, ending user fees permanently in a country that has some of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.

Poverty and poor health go hand in hand, and the deal struck at UNGA shows the determination of the developed and developing world to come together to find a solution to a terrible problem.

It is an important step on a long road, and one that marks genuine progress towards our goal to radically improve the health of all people in the developing world.

Gareth Thomas is Minister for International Development

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore