Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Health and Human Rights: new online journal

The journal Health and Human Rights has been around since 1994, and it started out under the editorship of Jonathan Mann. Paul Farmer has took over the reins in 2007, and now it has gone online and open access. The inaugural edition of the journal in this new format has a host of interesting looking articles, but my eye was caught by the piece entitled 'Notes on the rights of a poor woman in a poor country' by Tarek Meguid, Deputy Head of the Department ofObstetrics and Gynecology at Bwaila Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi. What is striking about the article is its graphic -- and moving -- description of a vast gap between the human right to health (often in the form of access to basic medical supplies) and what actually happens in health care centers in low-income countries like Malawi. The disjunction between rights and reality can be regarded as a source of inspiration and idealism, in so far as one recognizes the existence of the gap and is committed to narrowing it. But as Dr. Meguid's article illustrates, the commitment and idealism of health care workers in many parts of the world are subject to alarming challenges on every work shift. When the situation on ground is that dire, and the prospects for change seem dim, can the human right to health continue to function as an ideal, rather than a haunting spectre, a biting reminder of failure or source of profound shame?

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