To mark the International Day of Action for Women’s Health on May 28, Paul Hunt, former UN expert on the right to health, tells us about one special girl who inspired his work.
About a decade ago, I travelled to the north of Uganda, still a conflict-zone at that time. Accompanied by soldiers, we went off the beaten track to a sprawling, dusty camp for internally displaced people (IDP).
There I met someone who symbolized the deep injustice that arises when health-rights are denied. About 14 years old, she was sitting outside her small hut where she lived with her family. Some of her limbs were huge and sharply disproportionate to the rest of her body. She was suffering from a severely disfiguring disease called lymphatic filariasis – commonly known as elephantiasis.
She explained that she went to school but was mocked and bullied. She could not stand the abuse so she left school. This teenage girl was the victim of multiple human rights abuses: of the rights to health, education, and equality.