Access to basic services and protecting the vulnerable in communities is of utmost importance, especially in a country like Nepal, where 4.9 million people are multidimensionally poor. This figure accounts for about 17 per cent of the country’s total population. The COVID-19 pandemic severely affected citizens’ basic rights, including access to health and education. During these testing times, the healthcare system was overwhelmed. People are living with extreme poverty and even the working class has suffered from wage cuts and job loss because of lockdowns and closure.
At a time when the health sector needs to be given higher priority by the government and relevant stakeholders, Nepali people have been more vulnerable to viral diseases. Hence, health right, which is a fundamental human right, needs to be promoted to protect the health dignity of citizens.
There should be maximum allocation of available resources for health facilities. The Constitution of Nepal also guarantees citizens’ right to health. Like any other nation, Nepal has an obligation under international law considering that all of the citizens and inhabitants get facilitated with the right to health. But there exist severe gaps in terms of protecting the right to education, livelihood, and health for people. Various unhealthy behavioural practices have also hampered the efforts to create sound living conditions for citizens and implement the healthcare mechanism.
Nevertheless, regarding COVID-19 controlling, there has been a surge in vaccine inflow from several countries and there is somewhat fair access to vaccines and medicines lately. Yet, healthcare personnel like doctors and nurses have failed to get proper incentives. The government announced free health insurance of up to Rs. 500,000 for all healthcare workers but the only two doctors stand for 10,000 people. Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) needs to find out what is demotivating the healthcare personnel to stay in the country and how should the government apply the measures recommended by experts to change this trend.
Likewise, focus should be also on the areas such as air quality, transparent public health informatics and technology, health equity task force and migrant labour healthcare priorities. Though the government has, in its policy and programmes, mentioned some important measures to improve healthcare, the provision regarding decentralisation of healthcare institutions for proper access to health facilities needs to be implemented. Moreover, a health equity taskforce can be formulated to channelise better access to health facilities in the rural, remote, and border areas besides urban centres.
The Health Insurance Board needs to work on expanding the health insurance scheme. The government should focus on ensuring quality health services and education, healthy lifestyle, and incorporating health into other sectors’ policies to ensure health as fundamental rights of citizens. Also, integrated health infrastructure development and flexible health insurance policies have to be administered along with the Social Health Insurance Model by including various non-profits payers to broaden the fundamental healthcare insurance accessibility coverage.
With the establishment of Singha Durbar Vaidyakhana in the 17th century and Bir Hospital in 1899, Nepal has come a long way in terms of providing healthcare facilities and protecting health care rights. Now it is necessary to review the impacts of health policies, laws, and human rights practices. Breaching human rights can have negative effects on physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Therefore, a human rights-based approach to health should be adopted to promote and protect the fundamental health human rights and dignity of citizens.