Santiago, Chile - Crosswalk in long-exposure.

Chile’s New Constitution, the Right to Health, and Health System Reforms

By Marco Antonio Nuñez

During these months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile, the need to align the constitutional process with long-postponed structural reforms to the health system has become evident among public health experts.

Capitalizing on this moment might avoid the possibility of a constitutional right to health becoming a dead letter or being reduced only to the prosecution of particular cases, postponing again the aspirations of the majority of Chileans.

Although the Chilean Constitution promulgated under the dictatorship in 1980 and subsequently reformed in several of its chapters recognizes “The right to the protection of health,” it has been tainted by authoritarianism from its origin, and promotes a subsidiary role of the state in health.

Read More

gavel and stethoscope on white background

The Right to Health in the Upcoming Constitutional Debate in Chile

By Veronica Vargas

At this unprecedented COVID moment, health has been revealed as one of our most precious possessions and protecting it has become imperative. The right to health was articulated by the WHO in the Declaration of Alma-Ata of 1978. The upcoming constitutional debate in Chile is an opportunity to re-examine this concept.

The Chilean constitution specifies the right to “free and egalitarian access” to health care. Simultaneously, the constitution guarantees that “each person has the right to choose the health system they wish to join, either public or private.”

These provisions have championed a prospering private health sector, with corporate clinics and a private insurance system that represents almost half of total health spending.

However, this private sector serves less than 20 percent of the population. Nearly 80 percent of the population utilizes public sector insurance. Although the public sector has been expanding its coverage of health services, and health indicators for those with public insurance have been improving, the public sector is chronically underfunded. Public sector health care spending represents only 4% of the GDP.

Read More

Santiago, Chile.

Pragmatism and the Chilean Constitutional Moment

By Sebastián Soto

Chile is heading into a constitutional change.

After 40 years, the Chilean 1980 Constitution, enacted under Pinochet’s rule, but subsequently amended over fifty times, will probably be replaced. On October 25th, a referendum will decide whether or not to call a constitutional convention to change the Constitution.

If the referendum passes, in April 2021 the convention will be called and will have nine months (extendable for three more, if needed) to write a new constitution. If the convention reaches an agreement on a new constitution by 2/3 of its members, a new referendum to approve it will be called during the first semester of 2022.

Social rights are expected to be one of the most contested topics discussed during the process.

Read More

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Concerns Mount About Rule of Law in Argentina During COVID-19

By Roberto Gargarella

From the first time that I wrote about the COVID-19 situation in Argentina, June 8, until the date I am writing this, September 7, things have changed significantly.

First, the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Argentina has risen to nearly 10,000; the 16th highest death toll in the world. The total number of cases is 500,000; which places Argentina among the top 10 countries for infections worldwide.

These alarming statistics are particularly worrying in Argentina, given a number of additional facts mentioned in my original blog.

Read More

Protest against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro.

Between Gross Negligence and Genocide: Brazil’s Failed Response to COVID-19

By Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz

When my first piece in this series was published on May 12th, Brazil counted 11,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. A new health secretary had just been appointed to replace Dr. Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was sacked for disagreeing with President Jair Bolsonaro’s views that the pandemic (which he infamously called a “little flu”) was a conspiracy of the media and that public health measures should be immediately lifted to avoid damage to the economy.

Fast forward to September 10th and the situation, predictably, has gotten significantly worse. Brazil now counts 128,539 deaths, the second highest number in absolute terms (after the U.S., where the death toll is 190,872), and the sixth in per capita terms, with just over 60 deaths per 100,000 population. When Brazil reached the 100,000 deaths mark in early August, the president thought it more appropriate to use his Twitter account to celebrate his football team’s win at the local tournament than to make any statement on the health crisis.

Read More

Downtown Santiago, Chile.

The Novel Coronavirus and Civil Rights: An Update from Chile

By Lidia Casas Becerra

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues apace in Chile, a test of the country’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law looms close – in just over a month, a historic referendum will be held on the possibility to change the Constitution.

The plebiscite was a key political demand during the social mobilization after October 19, 2019. But since March 18, 2020, Chile has been under the state of constitutional catastrophe or calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will continue at least through September 24, 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the date of the plebiscite was moved from April to October 25th after a political agreement between Congress and the executive. Chile does not have a system allowing for either electronic voting or voting by mail.

Read More

Uganda Flag Against City Blurred Background At Sunrise Backlight 3D Rendering.

Ugandan Court Decision Enshrines Access to Basic Maternal Health Care as a Right

By Moses Mulumba

On August 19, 2020, the Constitutional Court of Uganda passed a landmark judgment in which it pronounced that the Government of Uganda’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health care services and emergency obstetric care in public health facilities violates the right to health, the right to life, and the rights of women as guaranteed under the country’s Constitution.

Uganda’s maternal mortality rate is unacceptably high, at 343 per 100,000 live births. This means that Uganda loses 15 women each day from pregnancy and child birth related causes.

In its judgment, the Court directed the Government of Uganda to prioritize and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal health care. The Court also ordered, through the Health Minister, that all the health care workers who provide maternal health care services in Uganda be fully trained and all health centers be properly equipped within the next two financial years (2020/2021 and 2021/2022).

Read More

Political Map of South American Continent.

Regional Insights for Constitutionalizing the Right to Health in Chile

By Alicia Ely Yamin                                                    

Chile is one of the few countries in Latin America that has not amended its constitution post-dictatorship. That is set to change on October 25th when the country will hold a plebiscite on constitutional reform.

Any new Chilean Constitution may well follow the path of constitutional reform elsewhere in the region. These reforms, which occurred in the late 1980s and 1990s, and more recently in Mexico, expanded social rights through expanding enumerations and/or incorporation of international human rights law into the constitutional text through “constitutional blocs” (bloques de constiucionalidad).

In situating what is at stake, it is important to recall that the evolution of health rights in Latin America is closely linked to contestation over boundaries between private morality and public policy, between individual and social responsibility, and between the role of the state and markets.

Read More

Santiago, Chile.

The Democratic Case for Social Rights in Chile’s Constitutional Moment

By Koldo Casla

We live an era of nationalistic, angry, and xenophobic challenges to human rights, a time in which the “will of the people” is maliciously presented as contrary to human rights. We have seen human rights backlashes consistent with this instrumentalization of the so-called popular will in India, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, the Philippines, the U.S., the U.K. — the list, sadly, could go on and on.

Chile, however, presents a test case for the opposite, an opportunity to refresh the democratic case for social rights, not due to natural or international law, but because human rights is what people demand.

Read More

Cartoon of contact tracing for COVID-19.

COVID-19, Misinformation, and the Law in Nigeria

By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe

The spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has been paralleled by the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the novel coronavirus. In Nigeria, information casting doubt on the existence of the coronavirus is spread especially through social media channels, but also through other informal channels.

Some religious leaders with considerable influence have doubted the existence of the virus, and shared conspiracy theories on its origins and the interventions instituted to prevent further spread of the virus. Others have taken to social media to express concerns about the Nigerian government and a perceived lack of transparency. For example, the government has received criticism for continuing its school feeding program during the pandemic, at a time when schools are closed, children are at home, and the country’s financial resources are scarce.

Unproven cures and interventions are also regularly propagated, especially via social media channels such as WhatsApp. For instance, hydroxychloroquine, a drug used for malaria previously, has been touted as a cure, despite evidence to the contrary, prompting some to stockpile it and instigating much discussion on social media.

Read More