“Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) is anchored on the premise of equitable access to quality, affordable healthcare services by all and sustained by shared commitment & accountability.”
Today marks UHC Day 2020. It comes when we have been through one of the most challenging of years battling a global pandemic. COVID-19 has taken a toll on us and while this happens, it has also been a wake up call for us to do better moving forward. How we work through this pandemic and into the unchartered future will be within the precincts of our concerted action in solidarity. The most likely and hoped for remedy is an effective, accessible and acceptable vaccine to all people globally. Unfortunately, there are already fears on the likelihood of equitable access as developed nations have already made concessions and inked deals to procure for their citizens. There’ll be need to rethink a global strategy while at the same time covering up for our social inequalities which have played out disproportionately in the impact of this pandemic. The marginalized have been much more affected in every nation ranging from health outcomes to socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
It’s two days since we concluded the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV). A campaign that’s driven at reducing the burden of gender based violence globally which disproportionately affects women and children. This may not be viewed from a medical perspective in our pursuit for UHC but I believe we need to look into it critically. On 10th December 2020 as we came to the end of the campaign, a High Court in Kenya delivered a landmark ruling in favor of 2007/8 Post Election Violence (PEV) victims of GBV. Reading through the judgement and the uptake from stakeholders, this is a great win for the victims and the society at large. I rejoice but at the same time, I’m troubled. In a group of 8, the ruling was made in favor of 4, leaving others in cue to await justice at another time. Delayed justice may account for denied justice depending on how life unfolds in the years ahead. I’m hopeful that there’ll be action for these other victims and all other survivors of GBV in our communities.
Penning this down, I’m driven by two incidences with a common narrative around GBV. It’s unfortunate that we have cases of GBV being perpetrated by individuals in our circles yet we never talk about them. Additionally, while we declare commitment to UHC, there isn’t much investment in the care and management for survivors of GBV. Today I had the privilege of talking to a friend who was assaulted by a person she knows but couldn’t get to report or even find redress for the same. Universities have become unsafe in some form or the other as perpetrators of sexual violence masquerade as students. This is fueled by our socialization process in which individuals perceive alcoholism as a standard measure of having fun. This has been leveraged to serve as a means to inducing consent for sexual activities. Perpetrators call it “marination” while in reality they also know it’s a means to engage in nonconsensual sex. This is one thing that needs to be addressed and I believe it starts from a redefining of our ideals and values as a society on what’s acceptable or not.
Mid year I had a chance to work in a primary health center as part of my internship as a pharmacist. As it’s evident every patient who goes through a healthcare system has the ultimate obligation to go by the pharmacy for their medication and medicines counselling. In one encounter, I had this lady come to the pharmacy with a bruised arm and neck region. In her prescription pad, she had analgesics to manage the pain that she was feeling. Out of curiosity and desire to help, I sought more information to understand the cause. It’s through this encounter that I got to know that all the pain she was suffering had been inflicted by her husband who happens to be a police officer and therefore she couldn’t sue him after multiple attempts which never took off. The worst part of it was that the marriage was also influenced by pursuit for stability in which her family felt there was a form of stability being married to a man with a job. I fear she may one day die in the marriage that was to offer her some security and stability. If we get to analyze the case critically, there are several shortcomings in such a case but to me the most important and critical was my discharge of responsibility as a healthcare practitioner bestowed with the responsibility to care for my patients. It’s through the discussions that I could get to understand her situation, brainstorm with her on the options she had and way forward for her and her children. Instead of seeing a case to manage, I saw a lady who could well be my sister, mother, cousin, aunt, wife, niece etc. This grounded me in the care to make her find a sustainable remedy to her challenges. Dispensing analgesics every week wouldn’t be an answer her woes. Armored with this, I believe it’s time for training to capture such essential skills to ensure we protect everyone and have modalities of managing them better when they come to us at the point of care.
As a pharmacist I have the responsibility to guide my patients in their wellness program and this includes counselling. If empowered and enabled to stand up for our patients in providing redress against GBV, the gains would be insurmountable. It’s because of this that I acknowledge the work being driven by Physicians for Human Rights who are looking at the social accountability component of health with a keen interest on human rights. We need to protect everyone for us to realize our aspirations for UHC. Protection starts from taking care of the prominent needs while at the same time not ignoring underlying drivers and contributors to the same. We shouldn’t focus on having more hospitals but on keeping people healthy, an agenda being driven by Planet Wizard Media Africa through health communication and advocacy.
Disclaimer: As a healthcare practitioner, stay objective not to be duped by scammers who are also within the pool of those we care for. On all accounts strive to be just in an unjust society.