Paediatric palliative care is a right not a privilege

Categories: People & Places.

Over the past year, a multidisciplinary team from St. Jude has worked together with partners in Zimbabwe to form a paediatric cancer collaboration. While St. Jude Global has worked for over 20 years in Latin America, Asia and North Africa, this Zimbabwe-St. Jude collaboration represents the first of its kind in sub Saharan Africa.

Island Hospice & Healthcare (Island), a national Zimbabwean palliative care organization and the first hospice established in Africa in 1979 is a key stakeholder in the Zimbabwe-St. Jude collaboration and was delighted to host St. Jude Professor Justin Baker and his daughter Abbie over 3 days at the end of May 2018.

Support from Professor Baker included mentoring the Island Harare clinical team during its weekly meeting to manage complex cases.

This was followed by home visits, hospital visits, and a series of lectures and meetings with clinicians that work at A4 Special, Parirenatwa Hospital, the only dedicated unit in Zimbabwe that supports children with cancer and associated blood disorders.

Island has for several years worked side by side with the clinicians on the ward to support children living with cancer and associated blood disorders.

Those that attended Professor Baker’s lectures and interacted with him during his time in Zimbabwe have reported to Island that it was productive, inspiring and has resulted in a number of important insights including a deeper understanding of palliative care and its importance in improving quality of life among children facing serious illness.

Professor Baker in a few short days opened minds and hearts to palliative care in a way not seen before.

Presenting hard facts and data about the impact of palliative care while sharing the real stories of children and families under Professor Bakers care transformed minds and hearts.

This visit was important for Island and Zimbabwe. A recent study identified approximately 210,850 children in Zimbabwe who need access to palliative care, with approximately 80,000 needing specialist palliative care i.e. 113.3 per 10,000 children in need, with less than 1% actually receiving such care.

The partnership with St Jude’s will support Island’s work with children living with cancer and associated blood disorders AND other conditions including HIV.

Zimbabwe is in a very interesting place currently and this partnership is both timely and needed. Of note is that Island is providing technical support to the Ministry of Health & Child Care in integrating palliative care into the health delivery system.

St Jude’s has successfully integrated palliative care into its care and this will help Zimbabwe at facility level and nationally as the country moves to providing palliative care for all children in need of this service.

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