Nepal authorities must immediately comply with the Supreme Court’s directives on measures to ensure equal access to COVID health services, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.
Nepal’s Supreme Court on 25 January again noted the need for the government to coordinate different offices at provincial and local levels and to make special arrangements for the immediate and easy distribution of medicines. This order follows earlier orders issued during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, when the Supreme Court on 17 May 2021 had ordered the authorities to prepare a detailed “Plan of Action” to respond to the expected “third wave” and “forthcoming possible infection”.
Despite the Court’s directive, Nepali authorities have failed to make generally available even basic essential medicines like paracetamol, often used to treat COVID-19 in Nepal.
“The shortage of even essential medicines like paracetamol shows that Nepal’s Government did not take adequate preparatory measures to implement the orders of the Supreme Court”, said Mandira Sharma, Senior International Legal Adviser of the ICJ.
“The Government appears to have disregarded its duty to respect the lawful orders of the country’s highest judicial authority and placed in jeopardy the lives and well-being of Nepal’s population.”
The Constitution of Nepal guarantees ”the right to free basic health services from the State”. The Supreme Court has indicated that under the Public Health Act “health services for infectious diseases such as COVID-19 fall under the category of basic health services … and should therefore be provided for free”.
Under Article 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Nepal has an international obligation to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare services, including medicines required for the treatment of COVID-19. Medicines provided must be affordable and of adequate quality in order to comply with this obligation.
The ICJ has published the report in September 2021 highlighting that Nepalese authorities should ensure that the right to health is guaranteed to all people, in law and in practice, without discrimination. It continues to call on the country’s government to collectively and individually ensure immediate compliance with and implementation of all Supreme Court orders directing them to take measures to comply with human rights obligations in COVID-19 responses.
Mandira Sharma, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser, e: Mandira.Sharma(a)icj.org
Karuna Parajuli, ICJ Legal Adviser- Nepal, e: karuna.parajuli(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases