Neglected diseases – a human rights analysis

August 25, 2010


The World Health Organization recently published a report on the human rights aspects of neglected diseases. It was commissioned by the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and written by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health in collaboration with others. Neglected diseases are those diseases understood to be primarily affecting people living in poverty in developing countries, in particular in rural areas.

According to the Special Rapporteur, Paul Hunt, there are clear links between neglected diseases and human rights. Neglected diseases are more likely to occur where human rights, such as the rights to health, education and housing are not guaranteed. They also often result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including equality and non-discrimination. Thus, addressing the human rights issues that cause or are a consequence of neglected diseases has an important role to play in helping to prevent and treat these diseases, as well as in ensuring the dignity and well-being of those afflicted. The report aims to equip practitioners with an understanding of human rights, how human rights abuses cause and result from neglected diseases, and how a human rights approach can contribute to the fight against neglected diseases.

Human Rights and Neglected Diseases
Paul Hunt, Rebecca Steward, Judith Bueno de Mesquita & Lisa Oldring, World Health Organization, 2007