The Human Rights Commission on Health, Food and Social Security: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


12 August 2003

Ms L Jacobus ANC (Gauteng)

Documents handed out:
4th Economic and Social Rights Report 2000/2002

The Committee was briefed on the achievements and challenges faced by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding Health, Food and Social Security, respectively Chapters Four, Five and Six of the SAHRC's Human Rights Report. Mr Thipanyane, Head of the SAHRC Research and Documentation Department, said the monitoring process strove for the accessibility of human rights for all, especially vulnerable groups such as the poor and marginalised. He added there should be a sustained positive relationship between government departments and the SAHRC.

There were four representatives from the SAHRC: Mr Tseliso Thipanyane, Head of the Department of Research & Documentation; Ms Judith Cohen, Head of Public Relatons; Mr Eric Watkinson (Deputy Director- of Research & Documentation), and Mr Viso Shabalala, Reseacher.

Mr Thipanyane provided an overview of recent achievements in the health sector, particularly since 1998. He especially noted the distribution of condoms and the use of nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Problems facing the sector included the emigration of health workers; inequitable budget allocation to provinces; inadequate skills training on monitoring tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, and the lack of electricity and piped water in many areas.

He said recent statistics indicated that only 1.5 million of the targeted 3.3 million children received child support grants. More focus was needed on how street, refugee and imprisoned children could access grants.

Not all schools had been covered by the school-feeding programmes and the SAHRC was thus proposing a Food Security Bill to ensure that all schools had access.

Mr Thipanyane said critical challenges included the possibility of granting employee benefits to migrant workers and the question of implementing social insurance for those living with HIV/AIDS.


Dr P Nel NNP (Free State) asked for a more detailed list of provincial responses to SAHRC questions.

Mr Thipanyane said pages 15-17 of the report contained a record of the performances of each province. He said some ministries took the reports very seriously - in a previous year, a provincial Deputy Director General was disciplined for not responding on time. He added the focus should now shift to the quality of reports.

Dr Nel asked about the importance of collaborations between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and provincial state departments.

Mr Thipanyane said the quality of reports could be enhanced by more support from NGOs and the SAHRC would solicit their comments in future.

Ms R Mashangoane ANC (Northern Province) asked what measures had been taken to ensure the availability of female condoms and how provincial departments could assist to educate the community on the importance of PAP smears.

Mr Thipanyane said the issue of female condoms had not yet been seriously considered. They would like provincial governments to more clearly evaluate the impact of their strategies on the most vulnerable in society.

Ms L Jacobus asked about the accessibility of social services in terms of physical infrastructure and quality of service provision.

Mr Thipanyane said there was insufficient information available on qualitative performance such food and service in hospitals, education in schools, and many other aspects of service delivery.

Mr D Kgware ANC (Northern Cape) asked about municipalities as key points of service delivery and poverty-alleviation.

Mr Thipanyane said that in 1997, they sent protocols to municipalities but only one responded. Due to the Commission's capacity problems, municipalities had not yet been effectively monitored but further efforts would be made to include them.

Ms L Jacobus ANC asked about the sufficiency of drug supplies and distribution methods.

Mr Thipanyane admitted that it was problematic that they had inadequate information on those matters.

Dr Nel asked for recommendations on making social services more accessible to street children.

Mr Thipanyane said they were working on a proposal to investigate the status of street children's social rights protection in Gauteng. There was very little accurate information available on street children in South Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.


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