Palliative Care in Africa conference
For two and a half days, palliative care practitioners, experts, academics, donors, government officials and Ministers of Health from 17 countries debated and discussed a host of critical issues at the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) and
For two and a half days, palliative care practitioners, experts, academics, donors, government officials and Ministers of Health from 17 countries debated and discussed a host of critical issues at the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) and Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA) conference from 17-20 September 2013.
The theme for this year’s conference was the ‘Net effect: spanning diseases crossing borders’.
The Conference kicked off with a ministers’ session, which was chaired and hosted by the Deputy Minister of Health from South African, Dr Gwen Malegwala Ramokgopa. Countries represented at the conference were able to present their technical reports on the status of palliative care in their respective countries with emphasis on the progress they had made in integrating palliative care into their national health systems – as well as any major challenges, lessons and recommendations.
What came out of this session was that palliative care has not been fully integrated into all the levels of health care, and that access to pain medication and opioids remains a challenge for most countries as restrictive laws still prevent this sufficient access. The role of advocacy in addressing some of these gaps was emphasised by both government officials and experts.
However, real progress was achieved with the signing of a declaration by all the ministers present committing their countries to the integration of palliative care into health care systems in Africa.
Over the two days of the conference, it was evident that palliative care has not been integrated into the health care systems of many countries. It is still viewed in many places as a stand-alone service, which means it is often not accessible to those who need it.
Some of the challenges that still remain include building the capacity of healthcare workers and palliative care providers; insufficient human resources; lack of guidelines for healthcare givers on palliative care; and inadequate education and support for palliative care service providers.
Palliative care is not just a service provided to patients, but it is a basic human right that should be accessible to all terminally ill patients. To quote the Deputy Minister of Health from South Africa, “living and dying in dignity is everyone’s right.”
About the author(s)
Ntokozo Dlamini has been working at OSISA for five years and is the Programme Officer for Equitable Access to Health. Prior to joining OSISA, she worked for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as Assistant Fund Manager, overseeing a portfolio of grants from civil society organisations working to promote good governance in South Africa. Ntokozo has more than ten years’ experience in the development sector - this spans programme management, oversight, and evaluation, strategic planning and grant making. She has worked for organisations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She is a public administrator by qualification but is passionate about advancing health rights for marginalised communities.
She holds a Post-graduate Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Kwazulu-Natal and is currently finalising her dissertation for a Masters degree in Public Management with Regenesys Business School in South Africa.