UN expert says Costa Rica has an opportunity to ensure truly universal health care


The challenges faced by Costa Rica are not insurmountable and the country could achieve truly universal health care, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health Tlaleng Mofokeng said today.

“Citizens and public officials alike, carry a sense of pride and nostalgia for a public health service that works, and now is an opportune time to ensure universal health coverage is truly universal,” Mofokeng said in a statement at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.

The UN expert noted that the formulation of the right to health must be understood and expressed as a comprehensive right in the Constitution. The right to health relates not only to access to health facilities, but also to the underlying determinants of health, Mofokeng said.

Expressing regret that abortion was criminalised in Costa Rica, the Special Rapporteur said these legal restrictions were not in line with international human rights standards and clinical protocols. “They must be amended to decriminalise abortion,” Mofokeng said.

The expert commended the leadership of many public officials in their duty of care and those related to the COVID-19 response and noted various good practices related to programmes and national strategic plans. The Special Rapporteur recommended the participation of rights holders in all processes.

Deeply personal accounts of racism and xenophobia from migrant populations, Indigenous Peoples and People of African descent living in Costa Rica were also shared with the UN expert during her visit.

“The lack of disaggregated data impedes the ability to fully analyse the situation of specific groups and therefore adopt targeted policies and resources from a perspective of equity,” Mofokeng said.

During her visit, the expert met with officials of the Government and representatives of the NHRI, international organisations, civil society, health professionals, and indigenous communities, in the San José and Limón cantons.

The Special Rapporteur will present her final report, including key recommendations, to the Human Rights council in June 2024.

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