Hospital Debt, Detention and Dignity in Africa's Healthcare

Detaining people for their inability to pay for healthcare is an epidemic across Africa. A study by Chatham House shows this disturbing trend in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Uganda. The detention of patients is dehumanising and comes with other traumas, writes Dr. Stellah Bosire a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

In one case, 60 women were held next to an overflowing toilet in a Kenyan hospital; and one victim reported being told by nurses that she was "stupid" for not knowing she was pregnant after being raped. In another, a Nigerian woman was chained to a urinal pipe during her detention.

These abuses are atrocious and despicable. The right to health is a fundamental right without which other rights are indispensable. Kenya has safeguarded the right to health by anchoring it in the Constitution of 2010, which provides that all Kenyans have a right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health, Dr Bosire writes.

The reality is that detention of patients due to medical bills violates the right to liberty, dignity and non-discrimination. Further, it can impact the mental health of patients negatively, and also increase their risk of contracting hospital acquired infections.


(file photo).

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