“The Republic protects health as a fundamental right of the individual and collective interest and guarantees free medical care to the indigent.” Article 32 of the Constitution is one of the greatest achievements of modern humanity. Once, it was a chimera to think about health care for everyone even in this part of the world. Only the most wealthy people could afford the best medical care, while the other (the poor) entrusted their fate to dilapidated structures, intended to prevent the spread of the infection rather than to provide proper treatment. The mortality rate due to diseases that can be treated with a pill sold in pharmacies at an accessible price, was very high.
The same is happening today in different parts of the world, where only the intervention of humanitarian organizations allows the population to get access to medicines. A slap in the face of the sense of solidarity which should guide our societies, too often sacrificed on the altar of economic interest. In a context characterized by cynicism, there is good news from Burkina Faso. In one of the poorest nations in Africa, pregnant women and children under 5 years of age were granted access to free medical care in the last few months. All this thanks to the Global Fund against AIDS, TB, malaria, and the targeted action of the local government.
Smaila Ouedraogo, the Minister of Health of Burkina Faso, gave testimony to the importance of international funds for a broader strategy to promote health, but still in close connection with the internal action of the executives, during the international conference “The contribution of the Global Fund”in Rome, at Istituto Superiore di Sanita. “Thanks to the funds of the Global Fund – said the minister – we obtained great improvements. HIV cases, for example, are now below 1%. But the funds are also used for a wider strategy, to which contributes also the national government.”
Thus, it has been possible to give pregnant women and children access to free medical care. Women, noted the African politician, “depend on their husbands’ economic support in Burkina Faso. Hence, in most cases, they did not have the benefit of free therapies and treatments. Now, in little more than three months, the number of pregnant women who have asked for access to care has more than doubled.”
It is important, he stressed, that “national governments in Africa act in a targeted manner, according to the population’s health needs.” In this scenario, the contribution of the Global Fund has been decisive: “Since 2006 – he said -, we received 354 million dollars, which allowed us to make considerable progress in public health.” Numbers bear witness to what I am saying: “In 2000 the mortality of children under five was 186 per thousand, whereas in 2015, it has dropped to 82 per thousand; in 2000, 450 women out of 100 thousand died of childbirth, whereas today – the Minister concluded – 330 women die for the same cause and indices continue to improve.”
With these social policies, the government of Burkina Faso has answered the call of some humanitarian organizations. Amnesty International is one of them. It identified a number of problems underlying the high mortality rate. Here are some of them: women’s low social status, lack of information concerning reproductive health, social and economic barriers, little access to health facilities, lack of medical equipment and qualified personnel. Many of these problems still exist. But this news suggests that, in terms medical policies, Burkina Faso has finally chosen the right path.