Table 7: Children’s Health and the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health

Examples of Human Rights Violations

  • High levels of infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates due to limited access to health services.
  • The low level of vaccination rates, due in part to the lack of health workers.
  • Wide disparity in the provision of health services, particularly in rural areas.
Human Rights Standards Treaty Body Interpretation
CRC 24(1): States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.(2): States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:(a) To diminish infant and child mortality;(b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;(c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution . . . CRC General Comment 12(101): States parties need to introduce legislation or regulations to ensure that children have access to confidential medical counseling and advice without parental consent, irrespective of the child’s age, where this is needed for the child’s safety or well-being. Children may need such access, for example, where they are experiencing violence or abuse at home, or in need of reproductive health education or services, or in case of conflicts between parents and the child over access to health services. The right to counseling and advice is distinct from the right to give medical consent and should not be subject to any age limit.

CRC Committee: Expressing concern that maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality rates, remain at very high levels in Algeria, CRC/C/DZA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 57; Argentina CRC/C/ARG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 57; Madagascar CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 49; Burkina Faso CRC/C/BFA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 54; and noting the disparities in maternal mortality in Egypt CRC/C/EGY/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011); Italy CRC/C/ITA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 47.

CRC Committee: Noting with concern the legislative provisions in Georgia and Bulgaria which stipulate that a child under the age of 16 who wishes to see a doctor must be accompanied by a parent; and urging the State parties to take legislative measures to ensure to all children under the age of 16 free and confidential access to medical counsel and assistance with or without parental consent. CRC/C/SR.1342 (CRC, 2008), paras. 47, CRC/C/BGR/CO/2 (CRC, 2008) para. 47.

CRC Committee: Expressing concern at high levels of malnutrition of children in Madagascar CRC/C/MDG/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 49; Algeria CRC/C/DZA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 57; Burundi CRC/C/BDI/CO/2 (CRC, 2010), para. 52; Burkina Faso CRC/C/BFA/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2010), para. 54; Bhutan CRC/C/SR.1369 (CRC, 2008), para. 52; Panama CRC/C/PAN/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 54.

CRC Committee: Noting with concern that many children living in remote or rural areas have limited access to medical care resulting in considerable variations in children’s health status in Georgia CRC/C/GEO/CO/3 (CRC, 2008), para. 44; Bulgaria CRC/C/BGR/CO/2 (CRC, 2008), para. 45; Serbia CRC/C/SRB/CO/1 (CRC, 2008), para. 50; Syria CRC/C/SYR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 63; Egypt CRC/C/EGY/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 62; Panama CRC/C/PAN/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2011), para. 54; Costa Rica CRC/C/CRI/CO/4 (CRC, 2011), para. 57; in Korea. CRC/C/KOR/CO/3-4 (CRC, 2012), para. 53 and Burundi CRC/C/BDI/CO/2 (CRC, 2010), para. 52.

CRC Committee: Noting discriminatory practices in health provision in Bulgaria CRC/C/SR.1318 (CRC, 2008), para. 45 and in Costa Rica CRC/C/CRI/CO/4 (CRC, 2011), para. 57.

ICESCR 12(1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. CESCR: Expressing concern about the high levels of maternal and infant under-five mortality in Madagascar E/C.12/MDG/CO/2 (CESCR, 2009); Nepal E/C.12/NPL/CO/2 (CESCR, 2008) and infant mortality in the Republic of Moldova E/C.12/MDA/CO/2 (CESCR, 2011).
Human Rights Standards Case Law
African Children’s Charter 14(1): Every child shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health.(2) State Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to pursue the full implementation of this right:(b) to ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;(g) to integrate basic health service programmes in national development plans. ACHPR Committee: Finding that Kenya violated the right to health of children of Nubian descent, stating that “[t]here is de facto inequality in their access to available health care resources, and this can be attributed in practice to their lack of confirmed status as nationals of the Republic of Kenya. Their communities have been provided with fewer facilities and a disproportionately lower share of available resources as their claims to permanence in the country have resulted in health care services in the communities in which they live being systematically overlooked over an extended period of time.” IHRDA and Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) (on behalf of children of Nubian descent in Kenya) v. Kenya. 002/09 March 22, 2011.