Insufficient Investment and Research on how Ebola affects Children

Posted by Gabriel Armas-Cardona on November 10, 2014

The New York Times has an interesting article about children with Ebola often surviving or dying while having similar levels of care and symptoms. The article discusses the experience of a clinic in Liberia whose doctors acknowledge that they “didn’t know how to predict” whether a child with Ebola would survive or not. The clinic is using all of its resources to care for these children, but the doctors still don’t know enough about how Ebola treats children. Another doctor emphasizes that “kids are not adults” and that their response is to the virus is different.

There’s no question that children have a right to health that states are obliged to protect. Children are recognized as a vulnerable group within General Comment 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Their health rights are protected within Article 12 of the ICESCR and Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and are most elaborated in General Comment 15 (GC15) of the CRC.

Children are entitled to quality health services (GC 15, para. 25). While Liberia is likely using the maximum available resources to care for people affected by Ebola, including children, children’s right to health includes an obligation to research how Ebola affects children. States must combat disease that affects children (Art. 24.2(c) of the CRC), which is a core aspect of the investment states must make. GC15 has an entire section on the responsibility to invest in children’s health. Discrepancy of knowledge on how to treat children with Ebola compared to adults could demonstrate insufficient investment and a violation of children’s right to health.

Gabriel Armas-Cardona is a legal officer at Lawyers Collective.