A rights-based approach to children affected by tuberculosis

March 23, 2017

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On the occasion of World TB Day, which is celebrated each year on 24 March, IFHHRO would like to point to a recent paper in the journal BMC International Health and Human Rights on children with tuberculosis (TB). In this paper, the authors argue that doctors, academics, human rights specialists, and policy makers need to better understand each other to effectively help those affected by TB.

Around the world, one million children contract tuberculosis (TB) each year, with around 210,000 dying as a result. As TB is a family disease, even children that do not develop it can suffer; 10 million were orphaned in 2010 by the death of a parent from the disease.

Academics and healthcare practitioners may have the evidence and skills to be able to prevent and treat disease, but often lack insight into the legal and rights-based frameworks that their governments have signed up to. Such human rights frameworks can serve as a means to highlight violations, thereby giving the opportunity to leverage change to improve child wellbeing.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Focusing on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the authors argue that a human rights-based approach to improving the lives of children affected by TB should be powerful. The CRC clearly states that children have both an inherent right to life, and to the highest attainable standard of health. As a widely ratified binding legal instrument, it also opens up avenues to hold states to account to ensure that they protect the rights of children affected by TB.

However, as lead author Dr Robin Basu Roy, of Imperial’s Centre for International Child Health, explains, awareness and application of such strategies is not currently widespread. “If these different professions don’t know how each other’s skills and experience can be utilised through collaboration to help children affected by TB, then everybody will continue to operate in their silos. As long as this is the case, we’re missing opportunities to reduce suffering.”

Role of health professionals

With regards to the role of health professionals he added: “As health practitioners, we can document and report violations of children’s human rights, and use the CRC to leverage states to deliver funding for interventions that we already know work. This involves contact tracing, preventive therapy, childhood TB training for health workers, and infection control.”

Dr Basu Roy and his colleagues point to the example of Public Interest Litigation recently brought to the Delhi High Court. That case argued that India’s TB policy violated constitutional rights to life and health, leading to the Court ordering that the government meet with the petitioner, with the option of reviving the case if action is not taken.

Source: Article Science needs humanity to end childhood tuberculosis, by Al McCartney. Website Imperial College London, 20 February 2017

Read the article Why the Convention on the Rights of the Child must become a guiding framework for the realization of the rights of children affected by tuberculosis. Robindra Basu Roy et al. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 8 December 2016