Disability-Inclusive Health is Essential to Achieving UHC
This partner perspective comes from the Civil Society Engagement Mechanism. We're delighted to introduce a set of stories collected by the CSEM to show perspectives from civil society actors and civil society organizations all over the world to mark the first UN UHC Day and to demonstrate civil society commitment to work towards achieving UHC.
CSEM and partners seek to promote representativeness and equity on the road to UHC. The views expressed, however, belong solely to each blog author.
By Alessandra Aresu, Inclusive Health Policy Lead Humanity & Inclusion and originally published by Women Deliver
In 2001, Joseline gave birth to her first child, Justin, in Burundi. Justin was healthy, but the birth had serious consequences for Joseline. A prolonged, obstructed labor caused a tear—an obstetric fistula—between her birth canal and bladder. A common occurrence in countries with poor health systems, obstetric fistula is rarely treated, and women who suffer from the condition face a lifetime of incontinence, discrimination, and isolation.
"The doctor did not know what was wrong and simply sent me home every time I asked for treatment,” Joseline recalls. “It didn’t get any better, and I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t get treated.”
Joseline’s health condition had a significant impact on her life. “I couldn’t go to church, the market, or work anymore. I stayed hidden away at home for 11 years, afraid of being rejected by the people around me.”
In 2012, with support from Humanity & Inclusion (HI–the new name of Handicap International), Joseline finally underwent surgery to repair the fistula. The operation was a success. Like other patients under HI’s care, Joseline received physical therapy and counselling to help her recover both physically and psychologically.
Joseline is one of many women with and without disabilities affected by the lack of quality and affordable preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health services—services that each individual should be entitled to under the Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Identifying and addressing the barriers that prevent the most disadvantaged populations from accessing quality, affordable, and accessible health care is essential to ensuring that “no one is left behind,” – a core element of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Behind these acronyms and mottos, there are facts, data, and principles that demand immediate attention. They represent the foundation of a disability inclusive and gender sensitive health perspective. If not deliberately included in the design of UHC strategies and reforms, the risk for people with disabilities “to be left behind” is significant. With over one billion people globally experiencing a disability, ensuring access to health care for people with disabilities—including rehabilitation—is essential to achieving SDG 3 and to contribute to the achievement of all the other SDGs.
No single project or organization can address this challenge alone. To develop inclusive and effective interventions, we must collaborate. We must create strategic partnerships. The recently established CORE Group’s Disability Inclusive Health Technical Advisory Group, co-chaired by HI, takes an important first step in this direction. The group aims to create a space for promoting knowledge sharing and synergies on disability inclusive health, and is open to all stakeholders willing to promote disability inclusive health. We welcome you to join us!