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Algeria / Right to health: “More efforts needed to ensure that no one is left behind” – UN expert

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ALGIERS /GENEVA (10 May 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras, today commended the Algerian authorities’ achievements in improving the health status in the country through a sustained commitment to public health policy, but called for further efforts to ensure that “no one is left behind.” 

“Even in the context of the current financial crisis, Algeria has maintained a good level of investment in the health sector,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the implementation of the right to health, at the end of his first official visit* to the country. “But the right to health is broader than this, and every achievement entails new challenges.”

“I urge the Algerian authorities to make sure that the principles of non-discrimination, equality, participation, and accountability are the basis of a ‘health in all policies’ approach, and to establish mechanisms to ensure the good governance of the healthcare sector,” Mr. Pūras said.

The health sector in Algeria has been developed with a focus on guaranteeing free access to health care.  “However, there are important challenges regarding equitable access to and quality of services, and an excessive emphasis on hospital care to the detriment of primary care, health promotion and prevention”, stated the UN expert.

During his visit, the expert looked into issues such as violence and mental health, and the situation of certain sectors of the population, including women, adolescents and youth, people living with HIV/AIDS, drugs users, migrants and refugees, and people with disabilities which, in his view, “represent a real test for the full realisation of the right to health in the country.”

Algeria has numerous frameworks for the protection and promotion of women; however, their implementation merits further attention. In particular, Mr. Pūras referred to high rates of maternal and neo-natal mortality; to important barriers for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights; and to the prevalence of violence against women, including domestic violence. “All of this represent a serious challenge for women in Algeria to fully realise their right to health”, he warned.

Adolescents and youth represent a very important part of the Algerian population, and they offer a unique opportunity to the country to reap the demographic dividend. “However, health services for adolescents remain inadequate and are not responsive to their needs, in particular those related to sexuality, and access to comprehensive age-sensitive sexual and reproductive health education and information”, he said.

The expert praised Algeria for putting in place programmes to fight HIV/AIDS and ensure access to treatment for key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, and migrants. But he called for concerted efforts to reach out to these populations who still face serious barriers, stigma and discrimination, both in law and in practice, and avoid using healthcare services.

“I have also looked into the situation of children with disabilities and the mental health care system, and have seen commendable initiatives to develop modern mental health services for children and adults,” the expert said. “However, the Algerian mental health sector is still excessively reliant on psychiatric hospitals with a lower number of services integrated in community and general healthcare system, and this should be reverted.”

Mr Pūras, who visited the countryat the invitation of the Algerian authorities, met with Government officials, members of Parliament, medical practitioners, and representatives of international organizations, development partners and civil society. During his two-week mission, he visited health facilities, mental health centres, and schools in Algiers, Blida, Djelfa, Sétif, Tipaza, and Oran.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present a full report on his visit to Algeria at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

OHCHR Country page – Algeria: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/DZIndex.aspx 

For press inquiries and additional information, please contact:
In Algiers (during the visit):
Dalila Bouras/ NadjetBoularas-EzzerougEzzraîmi at UNIC (+213 21 925 442)
Dolores Infante-Cañibano (+ 41 79 201 0122 / dinfante@ohchr.org)
In Geneva (duringthevisit): Lucia de la Sierra (+ 41 22 917 9741 / ldelasierra@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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