Joint Statement on Universal Health Coverage Day 2019.

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Joint statement from the


Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day 2019                                                                                      

Keep your promise on Universal Health Coverage: Millions with serious health-related suffering are being left behind

On the second official International Universal Health Coverage Day, people around the world are campaigning to hold their governments to account for promises made in the most ambitious and comprehensive political declaration on health coverage in history. Yet, millions of people who need palliative care for serious health-related suffering are being left behind.

The International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), and the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC) are calling upon governments worldwide to honour the promises of the UN Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).  

On 23rd September 2019, in a landmark show of political will, UN member states approved a Political Declaration on UHC, aimed at increasing equity in access to quality health services with financial protection at the country-level.

The Declaration includes a special emphasis on vulnerable populations and recommends scaling up palliative care services in response to the needs of rapidly ageing populations.

“Children needing palliative care are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and yet less than 10% of those needing palliative care worldwide can access it. Governments need to make sure that these children are not left behind,” said Prof. Julia Downing, Chief Executive of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network.

The Political Declaration also includes palliative care as part of the spectrum of essential health services that should be accessible to all people, without discrimination, in a manner that does not expose them to financial hardship.

“The last years of life can be some of the most costly for households, both financially and emotionally. People may be unable to work due to their illness or caring responsibilities, and out of pocket expenditure on health can be very high. We’re asking governments to keep their promise to not leave the most vulnerable behind,” said Dr Stephen Connor, Executive Director of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance.

Liliana De Lima, Executive Director of the IAHPC commented “As per the World Health Organization, UHC means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. This includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. Governments need to take the steps to ensure that palliative care is integrated into strategies and programs to ensure UHC.”

About the global need for palliative care

  • Worldwide, more than 25.5 million people die every year with serious health suffering (SHS) that requires palliative care.
  • The number of people who experience serious health-related suffering not confined to end of life is much higher, with an additional 35.5 million people requiring some degree of palliative care annually.
  • More than 5.3 million children aged 15 years or younger experience SHS each year worldwide, accounting for 9% of those experiencing SHS.
  • Less than 10% of the overall need for palliative care is being met globally.
  • More than 80% of these cases are in low- and middle-income countries, where access to immediate release oral morphine, an essential and inexpensive medicine to alleviate pain, as well any other type of palliative care, is severely lacking.
  • Global policies restricting access to opioids mean that millions of people are denied medicines to relieve pain linked to illness or injury [1].

About the ICPCN, WHPCA and IAHPC

International Children’s Palliative Care Network

The International Children’s Palliative Care Network is the global organisation working to improve access to palliative care for the 21 million children in need worldwide. We are uniquely placed to share expertise, advise, educate and advocate for CPC globally with >2,000 individual and 350 organisational members from over 125 countries.

For more information visit:

Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance

The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance is a global action network focusing exclusively on hospice and palliative care development worldwide. With our 350 organisational members in over 100 countries, we provide a global voice with a vision to accelerate universal access to quality palliative care.

For more information visit:

International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care

The IAHPC’s vision is a world free from health-related suffering. We serve as a global platform to inspire, inform, influence, and empower individuals, governments and organizations to increase access to, and optimize the practice of palliative care.

For more information visit:

[1] Knaul FM, Farmer PE, Krakauer El, et al. Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief—an imperative of universal health coverage: the Lancet Commission report. Lancet. 2017; (published online Oct 11.)