Right to health is not for the majority of UP residents: SR Darapuri
"Every citizen should have access to healthcare, regardless of caste, religion, gender, age or socio-economic status" said retd IG Police SR Darapuri, who is the Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front) candidate for the prestigious Lok Sabha constituency of Lucknow.
Three-quarters of households in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are in rural areas, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) data. However health systems catering to the healthcare needs of people in rural UP are grossly sub-optimal, says Darapuri. The living conditions in rural UP and urban slums exacerbate the vulnerabilities of poor to preventable diseases and causes of death. “The right to health is a basic human right” asserted Darapuri.
For instance, only 29 percent of people in UP live in pucca houses (NFHS-3 data). Sixty-seven percent of households have no toilet facilities (NFHS-3) however in rural UP the situation is more grim with more than four-fifths of rural households (84%) having no toilet facilities.
To top it all, only 9 percent of households in UP have water piped into their dwelling (NFHS-3), which is ironical as access to safe drinking water is alarmingly low in UP. Only 5 percent of households treat their drinking water to make it potable. The prevalence of water-borne diseases therefore is seething high, says Darapuri.
The social, economic, and sexual vulnerability of women - particularly young women and girls - harms their health and increases their risk to contract a range of infectious diseases. Gender inequalities prevent many women from being able to protect themselves. Millions of women lack the social and economic power to take optimal care of their health. According to NFHS-3 data, the median age at first marriage is 16.2 years among women in UP. More than half (59%) of women age 20-24 years got married before the legal minimum age of 18 years. Among young women age 15-19 years in UP, 14 percent have already begun childbearing, lower than the national average (16%). “It is not surprising that maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates are one of the highest” says Darapuri.
Access to nutritious diet and awareness about nutrition are also grossly inadequate in UP, which compromises the immunity of undernourished individuals, particularly posing life-threatening risk to children below 5 years of age.
Providing quality healthcare to all, is the non-negotiable responsibility of the government - and ensuring that the living conditions of the citizens, particularly women, young girls and children, are optimal and doesn't threaten their normal healthy well-being, is also a fundamental duty the state is entrusted with, believes Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and member of National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front).
- Bobby Ramakant
(The author is a World Health Organization (WHO) Director General's WNTD Awardee 2008, and writes extensively on health and development. He can be contacted at: [email protected])