MALAWI: Civil Society & Government Collaborating to Make Palliative Care Accessible

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, Leadership, and Policy.

On Saturday 27th October 2018 Malawi joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, in a colourful event held at Namiyasi Community Ground in Mangochi, a township located near the southern end of Lake Malawi.

The commemoration was aligned to the year’s theme “BECAUSE I MATTER” which brought focus on the often-overlooked financial impact of palliative care needs on individuals and households among other things.

Over 600 people of all ages and gender attended the commemoration. The Principal Secretary for Health and Population, Dr. Dan Namarika presided over the event which was jointly coordinated by the Palliative Care Association of Malawi (PACAM) and the Ministry of Health and Population Malawi.

The event comprised several activities including; 

  • A 2-km march through the township holding placards with Palliative Care awareness messages,
  • A tour of exhibitions mounted by stakeholders in the pavilions,
  • Speeches and key messages on palliative care from Ministry of Health and other stakeholder groups.
  • Dramas, song & dance, poetry to deliver palliative care awareness and advocacy messages

Malawi has been recognized as one of the few African countries with well-established policies and strategies on palliative care as well as a national level palliative care programme. Other factors that have contributed to the development of palliative care in Malawi ahead of many other African countries are;

  1. Effective leadership for the integration of palliative care in the national health system,
  2. Established palliative care services, and
  3. The local production of oral liquid morphine for effective pain management.

The partnership and collaboration between government and civil society in the area of palliative care development in Malawi can be cited as a best practice in the Ministry of Health & Population’s partnership with the Palliative Care Association of Malawi and its members. However, several challenges remain to be addressed.

PACAM executive director Lameck Thambo urged government to increase budgetary allocations to palliative care services to ensure there are enough professionals to meet the demand for services.

“We have very few trained palliative care professionals at a national level, only about 1 500. This means there is limited access to palliative care services, especially in the rural areas despite the growing demand by people who are chronically or terminally ill.”

In his remarks, Dr. Dan Namarika urged communities to take care of their sick relations, saying palliative care needs a holistic approach, and he pledged government’s commitment to train more health workers, including palliative care experts and bring ambulances to the rural areas to help patients access palliative care services. Some local residents who attended the commemoration were learning about palliative care for the first time during the event.

The event was funded by the Palliative Care Association of Malawi through True Colours Trust.

Several media houses attended the event and it got coverage in national newspapers the next day.