This meeting followed on from the 1st African Ministers of Health session, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013.
The session was chaired by Honourable Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health of the Republic of Uganda, and Dr Bernard Tei Dornoo, Chairperson of the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) Board of Trustees. The guest of honour was The Honourable Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss the World Health Assembly resolution WHA 67.19: ‘Strengthening Palliative Care as a Component of Comprehensive Care throughout the Lifecourse’, and to agree upon The Kampala Declaration 2016 – Consensus statement for strengthening palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course in Africa.
Over 26 countries were represented at the meeting, with Ministers or their representatives from The Gambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Libya, Republic of Sudan, South Africa, and Uganda, presenting their progress in implementing the resolution.
Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, Executive Director of APCA, and co-chair of the Conference, welcomed the delegates and honoured guests, including African Ministers of Health and their representatives, key funders and supporters of palliative care, especially True Colours Trust, and African Union, UN and WHO representatives.
Dr Stephen Connor, Executive Director of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), and conference co-chair gave a global overview of palliative care, reminding the Ministers of Health in attendance that: “There is a huge unmet need for palliative care in Africa, so it is very important that you are here today.”
Professor Dainius Puras, UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Health, gave an inspiring address, saying that although the Right to Health mandate is a wide one with many competing priorities, for him “palliative care is among these priorities.”
Prof Puras commended the “remarkable” work of hospice and palliative care organisations, and noted that when palliative care services are provided properly, it demonstrates what holistic care really means.
He also mentioned the importance of palliative care for children, saying that child rights are not just about survival, but about holistic development.
Dr Marie Charlotte Bouesseau, World Health Organization, discussed the WHO mandate in terms of palliative care. Dr Bouesseau noted that the WHA resolution recognises the global responsibility to implement palliative care policies.
She mentioned that the WHO has a requirement to address inequity in access to pain medication, noting that 92% of the world’s morphine is used in 17% of the world’s countries.
The Honourable Prime Minister of Uganda officially opened the session. He addressed the Ministers of Health, saying: “I call upon you to reflect on these international conventions and make recommendations to implementation at the national level.”
The discussion following the country presentations focussed on important issues including legal issues involved in access to morphine, how to move from policy to implementation, how to involve schools, family and other community focal points in palliative care awareness, advocating for adequate resources for training of health workers, and palliative care for children and other vulnerable groups.
After a productive discussion, the Ministers adopted the Kampala Consensus Statement to reaffirm their commitment to the WHA Resolution on palliative care.
The meeting asked the Consensus Statement to include a call for commitment from political leaders to recognise and implement the WHA resolution on palliative care. In Africa, there is an additional need to ensure there are essential technologies for palliative care as there is currently a severe lack of radiotherapy units on the continent both for cancer treatment and palliation.
This document will allow citizens and civil society to hold their governments accountable to ensure the delivery of quality palliative care services.
The Kampala Declaration 2016 is available to download from the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance website.