Meta: Lack of access to vital medicine is a serious public health issue worldwide. Read on to learn about the actual problems, the role of duty-bearers, and potential solutions.
According to a 2012 study, more than two-thirds of the world population living in the developing and underdeveloped countries have no access to vital medicine. While this may seem just like another stat on paper, the real-time scenario is far worse than you can ever imagine.
Can you imagine someone dying from simple diarrhea or a common cold? This is what is actually happening in the developing world. Therefore, such a dire situation warrants immediate attention from every stakeholder which includes national governments, theinternational community, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Access to Vital Medicine: What Are the Problems?
Despite some serious efforts to ensure access to vital medicine, certain problems still persist. In fact, public health in the developing world is marred by two principal factors. They are:
- Drug shortage
- Low-quality drugs that fail to deliver the expected treatment outcomes
Whenever we talk of about vital medicine, the key determinants of its accessibility are its cost and effectiveness. No doubt, the WHO has a list of essential medicines. The selection of medicines on the list is based on their cost and effectiveness. But the real problem occurs when these drugs are not available in local healthcare organizations. Many factors influence this. For example, geographical location (aproblem for a landlocked country), pricing issues, lack of storage facilities, and socioeconomic conditions of a particular nation.
Let’s take an example. A local governmental health organization has enough vital medicine, but when the patient reaches the facility to seek help, the medicines are already degraded due to poor storage conditions. This case is more relevant to vaccines that need to be stored at a certain temperature to maintain their potency and efficacy.
Take another example. Political instability and worsening social conditions cause medicine delivery delay. It is very unfortunate that many developing countries have piles of medicines lying somewhere in the warehouse.
Regrettably, this is just the tip of the iceberg and more complex situations prevent the impoverished citizens from getting their basic healthcare needs fulfilled. In fact, this is a major blow to the international law that states everyone has the same right to health.
Aftermath of Lack of Access to Vital Medicine
When people cannot get access to vital medicine, they turn to private pharmacy services. As a result, they have to pay a greater amount for the same medicine which would otherwise be available at a minimal cost. Moreover, the quality of the medicine on the market often comes under scrutiny.
Altogether, such a situation only complicates the matter, putting a big question on the roles of local government and NGOs.
How to Improve Access to Vital Medicine
As a matter of fact, this is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Even if we find an answer, everything is not going to be fine overnight. It will take decades before the people get access to vital medicine.
Here, we attempt to explore the roles of key stakeholders.
- The role of the local government. Naturally, it is the duty of the local government to ensure their citizens are getting access to vital medicine. In essence, they are the primary duty bearer. If they do not work to resolve the issue, there is no point blaming the international community or the NGOs. It is commonly seen that the governments of poor countries spend only a small fraction of the budget in healthcare. Experts believe if a country spends 15% of the national budget on healthcare, the poor people will have no major problems getting their health needs fulfilled. Unfortunately, this is something which many poor people can only imagine. The reality is different–in fact, harsh. To solve this issue, in part, economists recommend cutting down taxes on medicines so that the end-user prices reduce by a huge margin.
- The role of theinternational The rich nations approve certain amounts to fund the healthcare needs of the poor people. But, at times, problems arise when they fail to live up to their commitments. Cutting funds will have a major impact on how healthcare organizations in poor countries function. Therefore, it is very important that the international community respects the declarations and joint agreements.
- The role of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs are often regarded as the bridge that connects the donor nations with a country’s public healthcare organizations. Their role is even more crucial considering they come in a direct contact with the patients. Not only this, they also play a major role in raising health awareness, disease prevention, and general health maintenance. Unfortunately, many NGOs are focused only on specific diseases such HIV/AIDS or TB. This seriously impacts how people with other diseases get access to vital medicine. For this reason, Millennium Declaration recommends a wider area of work for the NGOs.
- Lack of access to vital medicine is a serious global health issue. More than 2 billion people in developing countries lack access to vital medicine.
- The major causes of an inadequate access to vital medicine are drug shortage, low-quality drug, and socioeconomic and political scenario in the state.
- Local government, theinternationalcommunity, and NGOs are accountable stakeholders. The list is in decreasing order of responsibility. Other minor stakeholders are pharmaceutical companies.
- The most effective solution for this problem is a collaborative effort among the major stakeholders.
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