Health is a human right.
WE BELIEVE THAT EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS THE RIGHT TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE.
Included in this right is a concordant right to the conditions that are required for one to live a healthy life, including timely access to quality health care and access to safe and effective medications. Unfortunately, a significant number of people in east and central Africa are denied such access. Consider, for instance, the health inequities present in Uganda, where our first ally, the Northern Uganda Medical Mission (NUMEM), is located. Uganda is a country of 36.3 million people, 65% of which live on less than $2 a day. In Uganda, life expectancy is about 58 years; 1 out of every 49 women will die from a pregnancy related cause during her lifetime; and 1 out of every 13 kids will die before reaching their fifth birthday. What is more, these mothers and children are typically not dying from illnesses that we are unable to combat. Rather, they tend to die from easily preventable and treatable conditions. For a case in point, simply consider the top three causes of child mortality in Uganda: malaria, diarrheal diseases, and respiratory infections. For the most part, these illnesses are ones that we can easily prevent and treat. For instance, it only costs $5 to diagnose and fully treat a child suffering from malaria. Despite this fact, each year in Uganda, tens of thousands of children will succumb to this disease. Indeed, malaria is the number one diagnosis made at the NUMEM clinic.
At Asteroidea, we begin from a commitment to addressing this fundamental violation of human rights: to do our best to ensure that as many individuals as possible within the communities we serve are able to access quality health care for themselves and for their families. No one deserves anything less.
Yet, although this resolve is where we begin from, it fails to capture what sets us apart at Asteroidea. What ultimately distinguishes us from many of the other western-based nonprofit organizations working in health care development is how we go about the work of following through on this resolve. Those of us that formed Asteroidea share a combined 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit health care development sector in east and central Africa. What brought us all together, and what motivated us to form this organization, was a shared commitment to revolutionizing the way that nonprofit health care development is carried out. We had all grown tired of a model that tended to reserve control of such developmental initiatives and programs for individuals from outside of the communities that are the targets of such initiatives.
At Asteroidea, we believe that the work of securing the rights to health and to accessible quality health care should be directed by, and work to further empower, local community members, who should occupy the leading roles in determining the scope and direction of the initiatives and programs to be implemented as well as in any partnerships they choose to engage in. It is these local individuals and community-based organizations that are the fundamental members of our Alliance, and it is our mission at Asteroidea to support them as they fight to overcome the barriers to health facing their very own communities and families. It is, after all, their communities, their families, and their children; it is, likewise, their right to hold the power and discretion in determining the scope, nature, and direction of the initiatives enacted to secure their collective and individual wellbeing.
In closing, allow us to bring your attention back to the parable from which our name is derived. At Asteroidea, nothing is more fundamental to us than our belief that every single human person matters. This commitment entails not only that people have the rights to health and to accessible quality health care discussed above, but also that they have the right to be treated in a manner that fully acknowledges their humanity, as well as their fundamental dignity, worth, and autonomy. At Asteroidea, we can think of no greater honor than to work alongside the powerful and strong individuals who are our allies in east and central Africa as they strive to empower their local communities. The barriers facing these communities are substantial and are part of an interwoven fabric of injustices that have befallen the larger region these communities are embedded within. Will we be able to change these structural issues? Do we even stand a chance against the overwhelming weight of the burden of disease that is unfairly borne by the people of this region? We certainly hope so. Yet even if our efforts today only allow for one more person to receive care than would have otherwise; only one more child to receive life saving malaria care; only one more mother to safely birth her child; or only one more parent to know that should their child fall ill, they will receive the care they deserve, we will have done a job worth doing and will continue fighting, hand-in-hand with our allies to bring these benefits to more and more people, every single day. Your continued support means the world to us, to the folks at NUMEM, and to the residents of their community.
Together, as allies, we can do this: one life at a time, one community at a time. Apwoyo matek (“thank you” in the Acholi language)!
James Walker, PhD