Exploring the meaning of "My health, my right" (2024)

World Health Day 2024 was marked with purpose by member States, WHO Country Offices and their partners the world over.

This year marked WHO’s 75th anniversary year. Celebrations were guided by the theme, My health, my right, and its message in favour of available, accessible and acceptable health care.

After a morning celebration with a health promotion campaign in Quatre Bornes honored by the presence of Minister of Health and Wellness, the Minister of Environment, the Mayor of Quatre Bornes and of parliamentarians, WHO also closed the celebration of WHO’s 75th anniversary by the launching of a stamp in order to immortalize this special year and to thank all those who participated in the many celebrations marking the event in Mauritius.

In the true spirit of this year’s World Health Day theme -- My health, my right -- the WHO Mauritius team decided to celebrate with children and young adults with special education needs - respecting therefore the UN disability inclusion strategy - and, afterwards, with oldest-old ladies.

Time with these amazing children and these enthusiastic ladies was awe inspiring. It first demonstrated how, in Mauritius, real efforts are being made toward bringing access to quality health care to all. It also showcased the unstinting dedication of health professionals serving the most vulnerable.

Founded in 1987 by Josiane Ah Siong, the Association des Parents pour la Rehabilitation des Infirmes Moteurs (APRIM) works with 35 children and young adults living with physical and intellectual disabilities. For Mrs Ah Siong, who undertook the challenge of creating this pioneering NGO with other parents following the birth of her physically disabled daughter Axelle, the centre is a labour of love.

Indeed, the association, provides education and specialized developmental activities such as occupational therapy to hundreds of Mauritian youths whilst also training their parents to better support their children.

The APRIM team described the many progresses made since the opening of the center in the 1980s with new equipment better adapted to the needs of the children and health professionals better trained in specialized therapy, with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Ministry of social affairs. However, APRIM also expressed their worries from the change of remuneration structure for specialists as well as the discontinued education in occupational and speech therapists which would hamper centers like APRIM to identify and retain the needed qualified personnel. Parents, who have adopted APRIM as a second home, have also pointed out the absence of public transport accessible to people with disabilities.

At WHO, we set great store by the recently passed Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which is the domestication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We hope the new disability bill effectively addresses the concerns of health professionals and of families caring for the 84,000 Mauritians living with disabilities, offering them better protection and ensuring they enjoy equal opportunities similar to any men, women or children in Mauritius.

Mère-Augustine Home for Women is managed by a similarly committed group of people, like Sister Willina and Sonia. The Home is run by the Congrégation des Sœurs de Charité de Notre-Dame-Du-Bon-Et-Perpétuel-Secours. Its 11 staff care for 56 patients, the oldest of whom is 97. Most of the patients are sent by the Ministry of Social Affairs. One of the Mere Augustine Home’s main challenge is keeping up with the rising demand for admission associated with Mauritius ageing population.

Indeed, between 2000 and 2021, the percentage of the population aged 60 and above more than doubled, from 9% to 18.7%. And this trend is set to accelerate with an estimated one Mauritian in three aged 60 or above by 2061, while the share of “oldest, old people” (80 and over) is set to increase twofold.

WHO Mauritius works with the Government of Mauritius to address the emerging needs of this ageing population. Indeed the Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) strategy launched in March 2023 has already trained 32 health professionals from multidisciplinary backgrounds which have themselves train 500 fellow professionals for systematic screening, early detection and referral of visual impairment, hearing loss, cognitive decline, malnutrition, mobility loss, and depressive symptoms.

At WHO, we strive to work with Mauritius toward achieving Universal Health Coverage, respecting the Right to Health for All and Leaving No One Behind. It was important for us to ensure our celebration of this year world health day clearly marked the tone of our aspirations. We thank AFRIM and Mere Augustine Home for Women for sharing with us their experience and engagement.


Article first appeared on the WHO Africa website.

Exploring the meaning of "My health, my right" (2024)
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