top of page


On April 7, 1948, the World Health Organisation was founded; to commemorate this day each year, attention is drawn to a specific health topic that has significance to people all over the world. This year, the World Health Day chooses to shine a light upon people’s right to health. It is not news that there has been a lot of uprisings and unrest all around the globe and subsequently, the rights of people have been trampled upon. Diseases and disasters (natural and man-made) have eroded people’s ability to access adequate healthcare and have resulted in significant morbidity and mortality.

This year’s theme – My Health, My Right, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

What is Health?

The WHO constitution states: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Mental health is a significant aspect of health and so, an important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.

Despite being the most populous African nation, Nigeria’s health statistics give a lot of cause for concern; only 3% of GDP is spent on health, life expectancy at birth is 62.6 but the average number of years that a person can expect to live in “full health” from birth is 54.4 compared to global figures of 73.3 and 63.7 respectively.

  Courtesy statista

What is Right to Health?

Health is a fundamental human right, recognised under the WHO Constitution (1948), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many international and regional human rights treaties.

The Right to Health has four core components

·        Availability means that an adequate number of functioning health facilities and services like hospitals, ambulances, and other key indices be provided for everyone, irrespective of their age, sex, location, social status, or political affiliations.

·        Accessibility requires that health facilities, goods, and services must be within everyone’s reach. These facilities should not discriminate, should be affordable, located in places that are easily reached and provide information readily.

·        Assessing accessibility requires analysis of physical, geographical, financial, and other barriers to health systems and services, and how they may affect marginalized people. It requires the establishment or application of clear norms and standards in both law and policy to address these barriers.

·        Acceptability  -  health facilities, goods, services and programmes should cater to the specific needs of the population; it should be tailored towards the needs of the population but in accordance with international standards. 

Quality extends to the underlying determinants of health, for example, safe and portable water and sanitation as well as requiring that health facilities, goods, and services are scientifically and medically approved. Quality health services should be safe, effective, people-centred, timely, equitable, integrated, and efficient.

In Nigeria, the right to health is fundamental under international, regional and national laws. The right to health is guaranteed under Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Health Insurance Scheme Act (1999), and other laws. The National Health Act is the main law that regulates, develops, and manages the health system.

Many people have had their right to health abused in Nigeria; some of these abuses include discrimination based on age, gender, tribe, social status, etc, even being unlawfully detained to the hospital due to inability to pay incurred bills, institutionalization, attacks of health workers and health facilities, female genital mutilation, etc. Apart from the obvious physical health consequences, a lot of mental distress is often overlooked when people’s rights are abused. This leads to a high burden of disease and further worsens people’s health, creating a vicious cycle with no end in sight!

Everyone (policy-makers, healthcare workers, patients, and communities) has a role to play to stop these rights abuses.

Individuals should know their health rights; everyone has the right to:

Courtesy of WHO

·        safe and quality care, without any discrimination.

·        privacy and confidentiality of your health information.

·        information about your treatment and to informed consent.

·        bodily autonomy and integrity.

In our communities, we can ensure our right to health by advocating e.g. appealing to political leaders, joining health communities to demand action, participating in petitions and discussions; or organizing our communities – e.g. at work, church – to agree on what needs to change and how to effect change.

All tiers of government i.e. Local, state, and federal need to formulate policies and laws to promote health by strengthening the ministries and investing in health and social infrastructure.




World Health Organization 2024, Nigeria [Country overview]. (Accessed on 21 March 2024)

World Health Organization Human Rights Facts Sheet (Accessed on 21 March 2024)

World Health Organization Right to Health Newsroom

21 views0 comments


bottom of page