Introduction to Health Rights Project (HRP)
MUHURI has, for several years, been implementing the Health Rights Project which aims at advocating for
the highest attainable standards of health amongst communities. Currently the project concentrates on
promoting the health rights of drug users including the introduction of harm reduction strategieas at the community level. For the past year, the project has been at the forefront of assisting drug users to get their legal rights and changing the government’s and communities’ approach to deal with drug use as a health condition and not as a crime. In early 2011, the government announced that it will assist drug users who come forward and request for assistance in dealing with their addition. However, the initiative did not last as those who came forward were at times arrested and others did not get the full support they needed to deal with their addiction. As a result of this, the project collapsed soon thereafter.
In most communities at the Coast, drugs have become a common eye sore. Drug use has become rampant with children as young as nine years old believed to be hooked on drugs. According to NACADAA, there are over 30,000 drug users in Coast region alone. The region records the highest number of hard drugs users. The drugs commonly used at the Coast include marijuana, heroin, cocaine and khat. Increasing drug use has simultaneously led to an increase in HIV infections among injecting drug users (IDUs) at the Coast and currently an estimated 17% of HIV infections in the region are linked to IDUs. Of the injecting drug users in Kenya, 32% report regularly sharing needles. Needle sharing (which results in the spread of HIV) and drug use as a whole are a serious concern to the Coast and its residents.
According to the Global Commission on Drug Policies, “Closed setting treatments [such as prisons] are often an expensive way of making a bad problem worse.” Prisons are supposed to be correctional institutions where all those who pass through the gates are assisted to become better persons. However, for drug users, it is the direct opposite as the prisons are ill equipped to deal with their suffering.
The right to health care is a fundamental freedom guaranteed by the constitution of Kenya under Article 43 that states that “Every person has the right (a) to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care” it further states that a person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment. In relation to this article (43), the new Constitution again argues in article 21 (2) that: “The State shall take legislative, policy and other measures, including the setting of standards, to achieve the progressive realization of the rights guaranteed under article 43.”
The right to health and access to proper medical treatment amongst communities is essential for the various developmental processes in the coast region. This project aims to empower state and non-state actors in the region to advocate effectively for health rights by increasing their capacity to formulate policies, monitor access to health and effective service delivery from the medical practitioners and the various health facilities.
Goal of the Project
The goal of the project is to advocate for the highest attainable standards of health amongst drug users. The project will use the new constitution and the provisions on the right to health care in the bill of rights to empower stakeholders and drug users to agitate for the right to health care.
Under this advocacy project, MUHURI’s objective are as follows:
- To lobby and advocate for the review of government’s healthcare policies and the recognition of drug use as a health condition
- Bring agencies that deal with drug/substance abuse together with agencies that deal with health issues (e.g. NACADA and NACC) to address the right to health care for drug addicts
- Raise awareness amongst citizens on health rights issues related to drug abuse
- Assist the prison institutions (and other justice actors) to ensure right to health care, including rehabilitation, for inmates on drug related charges.
- Legally represent drug users in conflict with the law to avoid victimization by the justice system.
The project’s interventions include the following
- Medical Practitioners’ Trainings
- Community Health Rights Forums
- Stakeholders’ Forums
- Follow up on Health Service Delivery
- Production of Simplified Education Materials
- Strategic Litigation
- Annual East African Conference on Harm Reduction and Drug Abuse