The Importance of Focusing on Health as Human Security in Sub-Saharan Africa
The term human security was first used in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report in 1994. It was defined as an area of research, study and practice that moved beyond the traditional notion of national security by combining a people-centered approach with a comprehensive view of security. In its simplest form, human security can be seen as protecting human beings from critical existential threats such as disease, starvation, repression, and environmental degradation. In its more complex form, it seeks to provide freedom from fear and want, and to protect people’s rights and dignity.
The UNDP report called for a shift in the way we think about security. Instead of thinking about the security of states, we should think about the security of people. This shift has important implications for how we understand and respond to threats. It means that we need to pay attention to the root causes of insecurity, such as poverty, inequality, and exclusion. And it means that we need to find new ways of cooperation that go beyond the traditional state-centric approach to security.
The concept of human security has been further developed by a number of scholars and organizations. In 2000, the UN Commission on Human Security released a report that made a strong case for why human security should be at the center of the UN’s work. The report defined human security as “protecting vital freedoms from critical perils.” It identified eight core areas of human security: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, political security, and social security.
Since then, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of human security. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development called for action on all eight areas of human security. And in 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on human security that recognized the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to threats and challenges.
Despite this progress, however, there is still a long way to go in terms of making human security a reality for all people. This is particularly true in Africa, where poverty, conflict, and disease continue to take a heavy toll on people’s lives. In this paper, I will argue that there is still an acute need to focus on health as human security in the Sub-Saharan African region. I will begin by discussing the need for a shift in focus from national to human security. I will then turn to the contemporary threats to health in the region and conclude with some thoughts on what needs to be done to mitigate these threats.
2. The Need To Focus On Health As Human Security In Sub-Saharan Africa:
There are several reasons why health should be seen as a key component of human security in Sub-Saharan Africa. First, health is essential for other forms of humansecurity such as economic stability and food production. Second, poor health is one of the main drivers of poverty in the region. Third, health is essential for ensuring social cohesion and preventing conflict. And fourth, poor health is a major barrier to development in Africa.
With regard to the first point, it is important to note that health is not just about individuals; it is also about communities and societies. A healthy population is essential for economic stability and growth; it is essential for food production; and it is essential for ensuring social cohesion. A healthy population is also more productive and can contribute more to the economy.
The second point is that poor health is one of the main drivers of poverty in Africa. A large number of Africans live in poverty, and poor health is a major contributing factor. Poor health leads to increased absenteeism from work, which in turn leads to lost wages and productivity. It also leads to increased medical expenses, which can push people into debt or force them to sell their assets. In addition, poor health can lead to social exclusion and marginalization.
The third point is that health is essential for preventing conflict. A healthy population is less likely to resort to violence, and a healthy society is more likely to be stable and cohesive. In addition, good health is essential for development; it allows people to participate fully in economic and social life, and it gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The fourth point is that poor health is a major barrier to development in Africa. Poor health limits people’s ability to participate in economic activity, which in turn reduces their productivity and earnings. It also imposes significant costs on businesses, governments, and society as a whole. In addition, poor health contributes to inequality and exclusion, which can exacerbate social tensions and lead to conflict.
In light of these points, it is clear that there is a strong case for focusing on health as human security in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not to say that other forms of human security are not important; all eight areas identified by the UN Commission on Human Security are important. But given the unique challenges facing the region, I would argue that health should be given priority attention.
3. The Contemporary Threats To Health In The Region:
There are a number of contemporary threats to health in the Sub-Saharan African region. These include communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer; maternal mortality; child mortality; and environmental degradation.
With regard to communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS continues to be a major problem in the region. According to UNAIDS, there were 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017. This represents about two-thirds of the global total. In addition, the region continues to be heavily impacted by malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 216 million cases of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, and most of these cases were in children under five years old.
Non-communicable diseases are also a major concern in the region. According to WHO, the prevalence of heart disease and stroke is increasing in Africa, and these diseases are now the leading cause of death on the continent. Cancer is also increasingly prevalent, particularly among women. In addition, mental illness is a growing problem in Africa, with an estimated one million people suffering from depression.
Maternal mortality remains a serious problem in many parts of Africa. According to WHO, the maternal mortality ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa was 546 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. This means that pregnant women in Africa are 14 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women in developed regions. Child mortality is also a major problem in Africa. According to UNICEF, the under-five mortality rate in Sub-Saharan Africa was 5.9 million deaths in 2017. This represents about half of the global total.
In addition to these health concerns, environmental degradation is also a major threat to health in the region. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Africa is the world’s most vulnerable continent to climate change. This is due to a combination of factors, including its high dependence on agriculture, its limited capacity to adapt to climate change, and its exposure to extreme weather events. Climate change is expected to lead to increased incidence of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, as well as increased food insecurity.
4. Steps That Need To Be Undertaken To Mitigate The Threats To Health:
There are a number of steps that need to be taken in order to mitigate the threats to health in Sub-Saharan Africa. First, it is essential to invest in health systems and infrastructure. This includes investing in primary health care, training more health workers, and building more hospitals and clinics. Second, it is necessary to improve access to essential medicines and vaccinations. Third, it is important to address the underlying social and economic determinants of health. This includes reducing poverty, improving education and nutrition, and providing clean water and sanitation. And fourth, it is necessary to protect the environment and build resilience to climate change.
In conclusion, it is clear that there is still an acute need to focus on health as human security in the Sub-Saharan African region. The region faces a number of serious health challenges, including communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, maternal mortality, child mortality, and environmental degradation. These challenges cannot be addressed without a concerted effort from the international community. It is essential that we invest in health systems and infrastructure, improve access to essential medicines and vaccinations, address the underlying social and economic determinants of health, and protect the environment and build resilience to climate change.