Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng took up her role of UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standards of mental and physical health in July, in the midst of the global pandemic.
“The pandemic has really shown us that even at our best, as a global health community, we were not prepared,” she said in conversation with Geneva Solutions ahead of her first address to the UN General Assembly on 29 October. “A lot of the world is so militarised in terms of security ... but we forgot that health and illness and disease can also lead to real disasters on a global scale.”
Among the fault-lines highlighted by the pandemic, drastic inequalities that exist in health and access to healthcare are among the most prominent. Almost everywhere in the world, the poor, minorities and vulnerable populations are far more susceptible to serious illness from Covid-19.
Dr Mofokeng, a trained medical doctor, sexual and reproductive health expert and human rights advocate, assumed her role at a time when governments around the world were beginning to reflect on what lessons Covid-19 had taught them about their health systems - lessons she will be examining in more detail.
For the latest episode of the Geneva Solutions podcast, we look back at our conversation with Dr Mofokeng in October, in which we discuss what the global pandemic has revealed about our health systems, the need to decolonise global health, and how the right to health can be used to restore dignity.
“I think it's important for me to articulate in my work that people are not inherently vulnerable,” she says. “There are situations and there are oppressive systems that then create vulnerable situations that people find themselves in.”