The 4th Uganda Conference on Cancer and Palliative Care was held in Kampala from the 14th-15th September at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo. With around 450 participants attending from across Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, India and the USA. Participants were welcomed by the Conference Chairs and the Executive Directors of the Uganda Cancer Institute and The Palliative Care Association of Uganda. The Assistant Bishop of Kampala Diocese, the Right Reverend Hannington Mutebi shared his experience of living with leukaemia, and the Key Note address was given by Dr. Meg O’Brien, the Vice President of Global Cancer Treatment at the American Cancer Society. This was before the conference was officially opened by the Commissioner for Non-Communicable Diseases on behalf of the Minister of Health.
The opening plenary also provided an opportunity to celebrate 30 years of specialist palliative care in Uganda. Rose Kiwanuka, Uganda’s first palliative care nurse, took us on a journey over the past 30 years, thanking everyone for their support and commitment to the shaping and development of palliative care in Uganda. This was then followed by a dance from ‘Dance with Valentino’ and Hospice Africa Uganda depicting the 30-year journey of palliative care in the country. Prof Anne Merriman then launched her autobiography ‘That’s How the Light Got In’, continuing on the theme introduced by Rose that we need to focus on the future, in encouraging new palliative care leaders and for ongoing action to strengthen both cancer and palliative care services in Uganda.
The conference was organised into six main tracks along with workshops and plenary sessions. The tracks covered a range of issues including innovations and new technologies, education, advocacy and the law, health promotion, family and community involvement, clinical care and psychological, social and spiritual care. The themes of paediatrics, research, service development, and vulnerable populations were spread throughout. There were >110 presentations – both oral and poster, along with five workshops and plenary sessions. There was also a balance between cancer and palliative care, including non-cancer palliative care, with presenters representing > 30 organisations presenting.
The conference provided a great environment for mutual learning as well as catching up with friends and colleagues, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in person since before the pandemic. The conference dinner also provided the opportunity to meet in a relaxed atmosphere as well as celebrate some lifetime achievement awards given for both cancer and palliative care. Participants left having felt rejuvenated, invigorated, and empowered to continue the ongoing development of cancer and palliative care in Uganda.
The Uganda Cancer Institute and the Palliative Care Association of Uganda would like to thank all those who made the conference possible, including the various organisational committees and the donors especially the American Cancer Society (ACS), Burdett Trust for Nursing, Center for Hospice Care (CHC), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), Palliative care Education and Research Consortium, University of Edinburgh Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh School of Health in Social Science, African Palliative Care Association (APCA), Uganda Heart Institute (UHI), and Mulago National Referral Hospital.