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Right to health: UN expert commends Ghana, but highlights key challenges ahead

ACCRA (30 May 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, praised the Ghanaian Government’s commitment to realizing the right to health. However, at the end of his first visit to the country, he underscored key challenges in the areas of maternal mortality, mental health and adequate funding.

Mr. Grover noted the authorities’ “commendable work on improving its health system as a whole and ensuring access to healthcare for all,” as well as its implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme, though “its coverage areas and long-term sustainability need further consideration.”

“In order to ensure that current gains related to the right to health are sustained, the Government must develop a strategy to address possible deficits in future funding,” said the independent expert while urging the authorities to strengthen and expand the health sector by ensuring adequate funding and resources are devoted to health. “As Ghana transforms into a middle-income country, its eligibility for international funding in critical areas, such as HIV, will diminish.”

Regarding maternal mortality, Mr. Grover noted that the issue has been declared a national emergency and that the authorities have taken steps to address maternal deaths, such as MDG Acceleration Framework. However, he stressed that “further concerted effort is needed to effectively address this serious human rights issue.” In his view, a country must have a range of mechanisms for monitoring, accountability, and to redress maternal mortality.

“I deeply regret that the Mental Health Bill of 2006, which would be a significant step toward ensuring the mental health of all Ghanaians, has stalled in Parliament,” Mr. Grover said. “I urge the Government to accelerate deliberation on the Bill and guide its passage through Parliament because there is an urgent need to improve mental health services in Ghana.”

The Special Rapporteur also stressed the importance of tackling the substantial human resource constraints that exist within the mental health sector, particularly in nursing.

During his eight-day mission, Mr. Grover met with Government officials and civil society representatives, including non-governmental organizations and academics. He will present a report on his mission to the Human Rights Council in June 2012.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to help States, and others, promote and protect the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Anand Grover (India) is co-founder and Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS in India. He sits on the National Advisory Board of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, is a member of the World Care Council, International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), and Core Group of NGOs representatives in the National Human Rights Commission of India.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/health/right/index.htm

OHCHR Country page – Ghana: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/GHIndex.aspx

For press inquiries and additional information during the visit, please contact Dragana Korljan (Tel.: +41 79 201 0124 / email: dkorljan@ohchr.org) or write to srhealth@ohchr.org