BONELA STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL WORLD HEALTH DAY: MY HEALTH, MY RIGHT!

6 April 2024

Internationally, World Health Day is celebrated, annually, on the 7th April. This year, the theme for World Health Day is “My Health, My Right”, a theme that speaks to the current Constitutional Review process Botswana is undertaking, which has seen the inclusion of the Right to Health in the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 4 of 2024 (hereinafter referred to as the Constitutional Bill), providing for the Constitutional protection of the right to health.

It should be a commonly held observation that the right to health, as a fundamental human right, is not conditional on race; sexual orientation; gender; political status; religion; belief; or economic or social standing. It is premised on the notion that everyone has a right to control their own bodies, the right to privacy and the right to respect and dignity. The Right to health means the right to the highest attainable standard of not only physical health but also mental health and includes access to health, mental health, sexual and reproductive health information and services that are free from discrimination and violence. Discrimination by its very nature acts as a barrier, preventing those discriminated against from accessing essential health and human rights services.

As the country continues to engage around the Constitutional Bill and what the Bill means for the protection and enforcement of the right to health, we must remember that it does not stand alone. The right to health includes additional and interrelated features such as availability (the availability of functioning public and individual healthcare facilities throughout Botswana, including the hard to reach villages, farmsteads and settlements); accessibility (the physical accessibility, economic accessibility, information accessibility of facilities, and non-discrimination); acceptability (of medical ethics, culture, gender and life-cycle requirement); and quality (health services that are safe, effective, people-centered, timely, equitable, integrated, efficient [and responsive]. It is also worth noting that due to the social, economic and structural determinants of health (factors that affect the lives and health of individuals), the right to health is related to and dependent on the right to life, food, education, housing, work, privacy, access to information, freedom from torture, and freedom of association, assembly and movement. As complex as the right to health may seem, its intersectionality with other rights like disability rights and climate change, means that the right to health depends on the realization of other rights.

Appreciating what the right to health entails, how it is reliant on other human rights and with the entrenchment of the right to health in Botswana’s Constitutional Bill, BONELA urges the country to unpack how best we can safeguard our environment to prevent its degradation amidst a looming climate crisis, and while preventing the effects of environmental degradation on  our mental and physical well-being, food and water. The Constitutional Bill says nothing about the right to a clean, healthy and safe environment, yet the Constitutional protection of environmental rights would lead to the creation of legal

frameworks protecting environmental rights. Furthermore, now that disability has been inserted in the Constitutional Bill as a ground upon which discrimination is prohibited, we must continue to advocate for access to health services that are customized, available, accessible, acceptable and of quality for people living with disabilities, using the Persons with Disability Act 6 of 2024 and the Constitutional Bill as human rights and equity tools.

We cannot talk about the right to health without highlighting the responsibilities that accompany the right. This World Health Day, BONELA joins the World Health Organization (WHO) in encouraging Batswana to know your health and human rights, make decisions about your health, protect your health as a human right, promote and champion health rights and advocate for their protection. The promotion of the right to health is not limited to governments around the world, it extends to companies, businesses and organizations who too must be reminded, to safeguard and promote the health and human rights of their employees this World Health Day.

For more information, contact:

Katlego Sechele
Programs Coordinator
EMAIL: ksechele@bonela.org | Cell: +267 72282025

AND

Tlamelo ‘Mmamohlakoana Mothudi
Advocacy Officer
EMAIL: tlamelom@bonela.org | Cell and WhatsApp: +267 75569078