WHO: 4.5bn People Lacked Full Essential Health Services in 2021

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

It expressed concern over the dangers posed by increasing outbreak of diseases and disasters around the world.

WHO raised concerns in a message issued on Sunday to mark this year’s World Health Day (WHD).

The theme for the 2024 WHD, which is ‘My health, my right’, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions and freedom from discrimination.

In Abuja, the organisation has planned a special event: ‘Walk the Talk’, and health colloquium at the Unity Fountain as part of activities to commemorate the World Health Day.

WHO said: “Around the world, the right to health of millions is increasingly coming under threat.

“Diseases and disasters loom large as causes of death and disability. Conflicts are devastating lives, causing death, pain, hunger, and psychological distress.

“The burning of fossil fuels is simultaneously driving the climate crisis and taking away our right to breathe clean air, with indoor and outdoor air pollution claiming a life every five seconds.” 

WHO said its council on the Economics of Health for All has found that at least 140 countries recognise health as a human right in their constitution. 

Yet the countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure their populations are entitled to access health services.

“This underpins the fact that at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

“To address these types of challenges, the theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’,” it said.

It further urged the governments to build infrastructure that will guarantee decent work, workers’ rights and protections, and create fair, equal and gender-responsive working conditions for health and care workers.

It also enjoined governments to ensure access to social protection to reduce households’ vulnerability to poverty and counteract the negative impacts of unexpected life events on income, wealth or health.

WHO further advised government entities to: “Invest in health like your bottom line depends on it – an additional $200–328 billion a year is needed globally to scale up primary health care in low- and middle-income countries (i.e. 3.3 per cent of national forecast GDP).

“Deliver on the right to health – make health services available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality for everyone, everywhere. Be strategic and build from the basics, reorient health systems around primary health care. Champion transparency and accountability, tackle corruption by strengthening governance and working across sectors.

“Involve the general public in health decision-making, ‘social participation’ happens when individuals and communities are meaningfully involved in decision-making around health, e.g., town-hall meetings and citizen assemblies, focus groups and consultations, health councils, representation on steering groups, and review boards.

“Know the health needs of populations and act on them, collect, analyse, use and monitor data, disaggregate by age, sex, economic status, education level, place of residence, race and ethnicity, and other characteristics and act to correct health inequities. Safeguard the right to health in war and conflict, protect health infrastructure and health workers, and ensure uninterrupted access to health services, in adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law.”

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