Health is a concern we all share. It is also a fundamental right. Unfortunately, for most people in the South this fundamental right is threatened by poverty, inequality, exploitation and war.
Only when politics and the economy are put at the service of the people – instead of shareholders’ profits – the right to health can become a reality. Individuals, communities and countries in the South should be able to take their fate into their own hands. Sovereignty is a necessary condition for fair and healthy policies that respond to people’s needs. Strong social movements are key because they represent the voices of workers, farmers and the marginalized and are able to challenge the balance of power in society in their advantage.
Viva Salud is a Belgian NGO that is convinced that every individual and community has a right to health. This is why we support social movements in the South in their struggle for the right to health. In the Philippines, Palestine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba and elsewhere, we provide our partners with advice and support, helping them to build strong(er) organizations. We also support them financially through the grants and donations we raise in Belgium. Furthermore, we support their struggle through our activities in Belgium and our international networking such as with the global People’s Health Movement.
Viva Salud fights for the right to health worldwide. To achieve this, we base ourselves on our key values:
We are interested in social, economic and political factors that have an impact on the health of exploited and oppressed populations in the South.
We support our partners in the South who attack the roots of health problems. In Belgium, we set up training programmes and campaigns, we mobilise our sympathisers and we act as part of a global movement for the right to health. Together, we have more strength to influence political choices.
We support and back militant social organisations who work towards genuine changes, that further the right to health, social justice and international solidarity.
We support grass-roots movements and local initiatives, because lasting change starts at the bottom and isn’t imposed by the top. The peoples of the South need our support and our solidarity to liberate themselves.
For almost thirty years Viva Salud has been fighting for the right to health and sovereign development in Palestine, the Philippines, Cuba, the DR Congo and other parts of the world. Viva Salud has changed considerably over the past 30 years, but has always remained true to the principles and ideals of the beginning.
Viva Salud was founded at the end of the 1980’s. Doctors affiliated with the Medicine for the People movement went to Lebanon to work in the Palestinian refugee camps. On their return, they founded Viva Salud with a number of colleagues. At the time, they had a double objective. First, they wished to build up solidarity with organizations in the South organizing health care at the people’s service. Also, they wanted to give Belgian health workers the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the cause of people living in the third world.
From the very beginning, the fate of the Palestinian people has always been high on our agenda. And our cooperation with Philippine health organizations proved to be vital in the early stages of Viva Salud’s development. Viva Salud set up community-based health programs throughout the entire archipelago, training simple farmers and local men and women to be skilled barefoot doctors, capable of treating the most common diseases themselves. Thanks to the close cooperation with social movements in their country, these programs help people demand their right to health from the government.
The 1990’s saw expanding bonds of solidarity with our Cuban partners. In the capital, Havana, for example, we have been supporting the setup of public health services close to the local population.
Viva Salud set up activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well. We have helped local organizations implement basic health care programs in poor neighbourhoods of Kinshasa, with other cities following suit later.
Throughout the years, we have been shifting our focus towards building capacity of local partners. Health workers missions have been downgraded considerably. However, we have sent out health workers on very specific occasions. Viva Salud sent a team of four doctors to Baghdad in response to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. And when Israel launched its brutal attack on Gaza at the end of 2008, Viva Salud sent a neurosurgeon on a mission there.
In the beginning of the 2000’s we became involved in a worldwide movement for the right to health. We were among the founders of the People’s Health Movement, a network of health organizations and activists in which we are still very active.
Apart from our focus countries, we also support a number of smaller projects in other countries. This is done upon request of support committees or in response to emergency situations.
In Belgium, we support the development of a broad movement for the right to health. To further this support, we cooperate with solidarity movements such as intal and Cubanismo.be among others. Our campaigns allow us to combine our efforts in changing Belgian and European policy in favor of the right to health in the South. We also continue our work with health workers and students, offering them internships and involving them in volunteer work.
The board of directors consists of the following members: Marc Botenga (chairperson); Bert De Belder; Bogdan Van doninck; Wim De Ceukelaire (managing director), Gilberte Boeckmans, Irina Meeusen, Isabelle Vanbrabant and Els Van der Sypt.
Their participation in the board is unremunerated.
In addition to the directors, the general meeting consists of other volunteers, members of social movements and paid employees of the team.
For Viva Salud, it is important that our governments take action to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent the destruction of the environment. We need a different society that is socially and economically sustainable. Despite the emergency, we note that this is still not a priority for the European Union. Under pressure from industrial lobbies, the EU favours the activities of multinationals in its policy of free trade in order to tap new markets that are mainly located in the southern countries. These countries are already the most vulnerable to climate change and are also victims of looting and destruction of their natural resources by multinationals, which further increases their vulnerability to climate change.
We want to play a role in the fight against climate change and attach great importance to the environment in day-to-day operations. For example, we ensure a healthy working environment (air quality, insulation of the building, healthy, local and fair trade food) that respects the environment (local purchasing policy, energy savings, etc.). Each member of staff plays his or her role by acting in accordance with the organisation’s values.
However, this is not enough. It is essential for us to sensitize, organise and mobilise citizens through campaigns so that they put pressure on our government for a policy in favour of the planet and its people.
We support our partners in the South and in Belgium to adopt an environmental policy in their operations. Through an exchange of successful actions, we inspire them to reduce their daily impact on the environment.
As an NGO, Viva Salud defends and supports the right to health and the struggles of social movements. We also play a role in the fight for equality between women and men. After all, gender is a factor that influences the right to health.
Viva Salud attaches great importance to addressing gender differences with a focus on improving equality between men and women. We want to improve the internal functioning of the organisation and have drawn up a gender policy that is in line with our values and vision.
We assist our partners in the South and in Belgium to integrate a gender policy in their organisational structures and daily work. In addition to an exchange of good practices, we offer our partners tools to improve their gender policy in practice. We made a gender checklist, useful to integrate a gender policy in the daily activities of an organisation. We also continuously develop and enrich our gender analysis.
Viva Salud places gender in the context of a broad social context. Gender is an integral part of the fight against social injustice and a possible lever for the right to health. We must not only ensure that women are represented and heard in social movements, but also support partners in mobilising on gender issues and reject a political policy that reinforces inequalities.
We have the following quality label:
We have subscribed to the following codes of deontology:
The list of permanent employees can be found here.