Sida considers health to be both a human right and a development issue.
Photo: Curt Carnemark/World Bank
Health is not only a basic human right, but also a prerequisite for development. There is a strong connection between poverty reduction and health. Good health is also indispensable for improvement of individuals’ living conditions.
Global health has improved in recent decades. Child- and maternal mortality rate is decreasing and the average life expectancy is increasing. Sida commits nearly SEK 2 billion a year on access to health care for people in poor countries.
“Sida considers health to be both a human right and a development issue”, says Anders Molin, Sida’s Lead Policy Expert on Health. It is usually said that economic growth leads to better health. But improved health also contributes to social development and economic growth as (healthy) people are able to actively participate in the society.
In world's poorest countries, the number of deaths from infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis is still profoundly high. But as the conditions improve for people in low-income countries, the population is also affected by lifestyle related diseases – the so-called non-contagious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
“Health systems in poor countries are already heavily burdened, says Anders Molin. When people in a greater extent also suffer from lifestyle-related illnesses, the burden is doubled. This is a challenge that we need to work on more in the future.”
One of the main issues that Sida focuses on within the health sector is sexual and reproductive health and rights. This includes ensuring that people have access to knowledge and advice on sexuality and sexual rights, as well as access to sexual and reproductive health and medical care.
Health of women and children, with a special focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), is a priority area within Sida's health cooperation. Sida particularly focuses on better and safer prenatal care in partner countries.
Sida also provides support to national health systems that make medical care available to those living in poverty. Among others, Sida supports the Health Nutrition and Population Sector Programme (HNPSP2) in Bangladesh, world´s greatest health sector programme.
Advocacy is an important part of health cooperation, especially within areas perceived as controversial. Sida provides support to organisations working with e.g access to safe abortions, sexual rights and health of young people, as well as LGBT rights.
Prevention work is also very important. An important public health issue is to increase access to clean water and sanitation and to improve knowledge of hygiene. Every day, over 1800 children die from diseases caused by lack of clean water and sanitation. Worldwide, there are about 2.5 billion people who lack access to latrines and good hygiene.
Improved basic health is also one of six subsidiary objectives in the Swedish government's aid policy framework.