Refugees and war – the challenge to palliative care

Categories: Opinion.

We have all been deeply affected by the humanitarian crises around the world and the pictures of the suffering of so many who have the misfortune to live in regions destroyed by war; forced to become refugees, living in tents in neighbouring countries and dependent on UN and other aid agencies to provide for their basic needs and health care.

Recent information tells us that people live in refugee camps for many years. There must be many who are living with cancer, organ failure, and other life-limiting conditions, and this must include children, older persons, and those living with disabilities – increasing their vulnerability and surely leading to a higher, and earlier, mortality.

As the palliative care community, with skills, knowledge, compassion and access to a global network of support, we could and should be there. How and in what form we get there is the challenge.

A group from the ICPCN, WHPCA and IAHPC is working on a strategy and an action plan and all thoughts and ideas are welcome.

We all admire the wonderful work being done by Medicin Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) who are at the forefront of health care – can we partner with MSF and other agencies; is our role to guide, train and advise or are there other solutions to explore?

Let us truly say that palliative care should be available wherever there is suffering caused by chronic, life-limiting illnesses and severe disabilities – no matter what the challenges are to providing this care.

If you would like to be more involved in this strategy or have any other contribution to make, you are welcome to email Joan at

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