According to the ‘Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life‘, palliative care is still at its infancy in Ethiopia, and is currently limited only to the capital Addis Ababa.
The latest Economist Intelligence Unit 2015 Quality of Death Index ranked the country 70 out of 80 countries assessed, pointing to the need to improve palliative care delivery in the country.
Ethiopia is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, with a huge population of approximately 91 million; of which 78% are living below the poverty line. Access to palliative care is a major problem in Ethiopia.
Many people present to healthcare services with illnesses already in the late stages. This creates a huge burden on the country’s health system.
Ethiopians suffering from HIV- and AIDS-defining cancers, and other life-limiting illnesses, especially the poor, chronically ill and bed ridden, have limited access to health services including palliative care and medication.
As a consequence, they suffer avoidable pain and distress, resulting in, among other things, a very poor quality of life and well-being.
WHPCA and Hospice Ethiopia are promoting culturally appropriate palliative care delivery that is home- and community-based, with support from traditional burial societies, known as Iddir. Iddir is a centuries-old network of mutual support institutions originally intended to help defray burial expenses, but now used for other community issues.
As Iddir evolved from the necessity for mutual assistance, to extend their function to support the poor and chronically ill with palliative care is a logical step. Iddir will serve as the mechanism supporting home and community-based care (HCBC) and for mobilising community volunteers.
Iddir members will play active roles in advocating for more support for palliative care, including access to pain medications, from the Ethiopian government and other organisations. It is estimated that more than 12,000 people will benefit from this project.
The mobilisation of Iddir will be supported by the following activities which follow a public health approach:
- training of 200 community health volunteers
- training of 200 student nurses in their final year
- Continuing Medical Education for 60 doctors and Post-Registered Nurses.
- linkages with three hospitals in Addis Ababa; and
- strengthening the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.
Hospice Ethiopia is the first organisation established to deliver hospice and palliative care services in Ethiopia. Formed in 2003, it is a recognised Ethiopian NGO that has been on the forefront of service delivery and advocacy to promote more palliative care service in Ethiopia and the region. Hospice Ethiopia’s work has been recognised internationally and they have received support from various high-profile donors.
WHPCA and Hospice Ethiopia look forward to a successful collaboration to improve access to palliative care for people and their families across the country.