What is children’s right to health and welfare? Why is it important?
Over six million children under the age of five died in 2012, and more than half of these deaths were due to preventable causes. And even more children survive while suffering illnesses, neglect, accidents and assaults that did not have to happen.
A sound start in life embraces nutrition, healthcare, a hygienic home and community environment, and care, play and stimulation. The right to health and the right to welfare are fundamental to children’s ability to enjoy all their other rights and to grow, develop, learn and fulfill their potential in a safe environment while enjoying a good standard of living. Millions are denied this.
The right to health means more than the bare bones of survival. It means being able to access confidential health services and the protection of privacy (particularly important when a child is being abused in the home, or needs sexual and reproductive health services and advice). It also means being able to access information so they can make choices about their own bodies and minds and give informed consent; as well as being able to access remedies when their right to health is violated.
For more on this broader definition of the right to health, which covers these "ignored" issues and more, read CRIN's submission to the OHCHR study on children’s right to health for the 2013 Human Rights Council Annual Day. See also CRIN's guide for NGOs on a Rights Based Approach to the Right to Health.
All human rights are dependent on other rights, so it is important to look at children’s right to health in context. For instance, the right to access information about their health, including on controversial issues such as sexual health and illicit drugs, can help children make their own informed and safe choices that they can then learn from, as well as access the health services they need.
Relevant articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) dealing with health and welfare:
- Right to health (article 24): The child has a right to the highest standard of health and medical care attainable. States shall place special emphasis on the provision of primary and preventative health care, public health education and the reduction of infant mortality. They shall encourage international cooperation in this regard and strive to see that no child is deprived of access to effective health services.
- Right to life, survival and development (article 6): Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.
- Appropriate assistance for parents (article 18(3)): States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.
- Social security (article 26): The child has the right to benefit from social security including social insurance.
- Standard of living (article 27): Every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Parents have the primary responsibility to ensure that the child has an adequate standard of living. The State's duty is to ensure that this responsibility can be fulfilled, and is. State responsibility can include material assistance to parents and their children.
- Drug use (article 33): Children have the right to protection from the use of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, and from being involved in their production or distribution.
- In its General Comment No.4 on "Adolescent health and development in the context of the CRC" (2003), the Committee on the Rights of the Child stresses the concept of health and development goes beyond article 6 (right to survival) and article 24 (right to health).