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Survival rights for children: what are the national and global barriers?

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Bernadette Ann-Marie O'Hare, Eva Maria Mfutso Bengo, Delan Devakumar, Joseph Mfutso Bengo

School/Research organisations


Most children die in low and middle-income countries as a result of structural injustice, and while it may not be possible to prove causality between economic policies and breaches of rights, it is possible to audit policy and practices through the lens of human rights. Child health advocates need to highlight the fact that technical interventions, in the absence of action on structural injustice, cannot address the fundamental causes of poor health. It could even be said that we collude in the fallacy that injustices can be solved with technical solutions. The determinants of health, water, food, shelter, primary education and health care are minimum core human rights, are the rights required for survival and today should be available to every child (and their families) in all countries. However, there are national and global limitations on the ability of countries to determine policy and generate the revenue required for core human rights. The authors conducted a review of the literature on the main leakages from government revenues in low and middle-income countries to identify obstacles to children enjoying their right to survival. Based on the review the authors suggest a framework for an upstream audit that can be carried out, country by country, to identify barriers in terms of policies and the generation, allocation and utilisation of revenues. This audit involves systematically screening the policies and practices of the main actors: national governments, high-income country partners, multinational enterprises, and international organisations, for possible influence on the realisation of human rights. Human rights advocates and child health associations could lead or commission an upstream audit on behalf of children in their countries in order to identify the fundamental causes and real remedies.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-526
JournalAfrican Human Rights Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2018

    Research areas

  • Minimum core economic and social rights, Human rights impact assessment, Economic policies, Duty bearers, Low and middle-income countries, Socio-economic rights, Survival Rights, Children’s rights

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