The speech by the Hon M.T. Kubayi at the IPU debate on Access to Health as a basic right: The role of Parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and Children

14 September 2011

Hon Speaker
Hon Members
Ladies and Gentlemen

The 124th IPU Assembly adopted the topic proposed by Hon. P. Turyahikayo from Uganda as a subject for discussions for the 125th Assembly in Bern and resolutions to be adopted at the 126th Assembly in Kampala Uganda next year. The 3rd standing committee as part of its deliberations towards adopting the topic for discussion, acknowledged the need for parliaments to look at their role in ensuring access to health by women and children Today Honourable members` women and children in countries faced with conflict are bearing the brunt of those conflicts as their right to health is infringed. You take a look at the women and children of African countries such as Somalia, who can`t access health to survive and this has led to many fatalities.

We need to comment the good work done by the South African team that is currently in Mogadishu ensuring that women and children in that country get access to health care. They are working under difficult conditions trying to save lives with limited resources and medical equipment, their bravery, dedication to their call to serve indeed inspire many of us and I`m appealing that we all continue to support the initiative and pledge towards the work that the Gift of Givers are doing.

Hon Speaker, the results of this conflicts leads to migration and refugees. The Refugee and Migrants rights are human rights. A number of challenges and bottlenecks still hamper access to health care for many migrant women and children. More women die each year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

In cooperation with the international community, to reinvigorate their efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), thus contributing to the elimination of conditions that force people to migrate, such as poverty, the negative impact of human activities on the environment, the failure to apply international law, the continued existence of agricultural subsidies, the lack of official development assistance, and the deficit of good governance and of the rule of law;. International migration requires a holistic and coherent approach based on shared responsibility, which also and concurrently addresses the root causes and consequences of migration for women, as for men, inadequate potable water, sanitation and waste disposal in urban and rural areas in Africa leave populations vulnerable to water-borne and other environmental diseases. Malaria, lung and other respiratory diseases are still major killers in Africa. These conditions are compounded for women by some unhelpful or even dangerous religious norms and practices centred on their reproductive and productive functions, their heavy workloads, high birth rates and socio-cultural factors that limit their dietary intake. Maternal and infant mortality remain high.

Gender inequality affects each individual`s opportunity for labour market participation and migration, and that the gendered effects of States` migration policies make women more vulnerable to human rights violations. While reproductive health issues are important, there is also a need to focus on women`s general well-being. For instance, infertility is a problem in parts of Central and East Africa, where 20 per cent of women aged 45-49 are estimated to be childless. Insufficient housekeeping money, desertions and divorce, stress and the insecurities of daily life also threaten women`s mental health.

Parliaments should use their legislative roles to remove barriers and facilitate access to health care by amending the existing laws. Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that all individuals possess the rights and freedoms proclaimed in it. It is parliaments that rectify international conventions pass legislation and monitor government programmes. In 2001 during the World Conference against Racism, the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) declaration pledged that Parliaments and their members would work with the United Nations and other organizations to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

It then urged parliaments to adopt laws that ensured this, and called on the IPU to follow up on the programme of action adopted by World Conference Against Racism. States are obliged to guarantee that all individuals, without distinction of any kind, whether immigrant/ refugees or not, enjoy the rights enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.

One of the direct negative consequences of the lack of a broad and comprehensive multilateral approach to migration policy and of restrictions on legitimate migration has been an increase in rejection, abuse, ill-treatment, aggression and marginalization of migrants, resulting in criminal behaviour such as human trafficking and xenophobic hate crimes. Parliaments must pledge to work towards increasing budget allocations to the health sector and pressing for a clear budget line for maternal health. Removing inequalities gives societies a better chance to develop. When women and men have relative equality, economies grow faster, and children`s health improves.

Gender equality is an important human right. Parliaments should promote and protect the fundamental human rights of migrants, in accordance with international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to disseminate and promote best practices by national parliaments in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the problems posed and opportunities presented by migration, and to form specialized committees on migration whose task is to provide effective protection of migrant rights and to find solutions to migration problems and the means to maximize migration benefits, with special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as women and children.

In conclusion much more needs to be done to make women and children’s health a national priority through community mobilization, education and sensitization campaigns, particularly in rural areas and informal settlements. It is important to work with men, traditional authorities and religious leaders in this regard. Appropriate methods should be explored to inform nationals and foreign nationals of their rights, such as through radio, television and print media. Nations should train and have skilled birth attendants and enhancing the quality of health care service. Parliaments must arrogantly challenge traditional stereotypes and cultural practices which are harmful to women and children, including underage marriage (Ukuthwala) and female genital mutilation.

Parliaments must ensure that it sustains a strong political commitment to strengthen and expand efforts to address the needs of poor children, society at large and to meet the national targets for the reduction of poverty, infant and child mortality and to strive for high and sustained coverage especially interventions that helps families and improve the quality of health services to all.