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A Child's Right to Health

The international community has recognized that children are vulnerable and, as such, require and are entitled to a specific set of human rights guaranteeing special care, assistance and protection. In September 1990, this was realized when the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (“Convention”) entered into force providing children with a wide range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. To date 195 countries have ratified the Convention. It is the United Nations most widely ratified international legal instrument with only two member states, the USA and South Sudan, having not ratified the Convention. The almost universal ratification is a clear commitment by the international community to the importance of children within our society.

At the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the universally accepted principle that “In all actions concerning children … best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”. Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years”; therefore, when referring to protections afforded to a “child” this includes youth and adolescents. The individual rights enshrined in the Convention provide a legitimate claim for children to social justice rights, including the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health and facilities. Article 24 of the Convention declares that:

(1) State parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. State parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services

(2) States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures to diminish infant and child mortality;

To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;

To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care…;

To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers;

To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition…;

To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services…;

(3) State parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. State parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.

In ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, member states made a commitment to uphold this right to the highest attainable standard of health and facilities and to “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights”. As such, the rights of the child provide an element of accountability to governments and other organisations to ensure that these rights are being progressively realized. The international community, in its almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has shown a clear commitment to upholding and protecting the rights of the child, however, when it comes to addressing NCDs, children are too frequently left off (or insufficiently acknowledged) in the policy agenda.

It is also important to acknowledge that a lack of resources is not always the sole barrier to the attainment of social justice rights of children; a lack of understanding of the problems and possible solutions also impedes efforts for change. What follows is evidence that the fulfillment of child health rights related to NCDs is possible and results achievable. The NCD Alliance Working Group on Children calls on member states to uphold their international commitment to the rights of the child and guarantee that children are “a primary consideration” during all discussions and during the formulation of the Outcomes of the UN Summit on NCDs in September 2011. Children must not be left off the agenda.

The right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health and facilities is also provided for in Article 6 (right to life) and Article 27 (right to standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development). This specific right of the child is also reinforced in various other international instruments including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948 (Article 25(2)); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (Articles 10 and 12); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 23 and 24); and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Protocol of San Salvador), 1988 (Article 10).

 

A Life Course Approach to NCDs

NCD Child is committed to the concept that sustainable, effective prevention and control of NCDs is not possible unless a comprehensive, strategic life-course approach is adopted.

Children & Adolescents are the cornerstone to the prevention of NCDs.

Download The NCD Alliance Briefing Paper on Children and NCDs: