The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management recently published an article entitled, “Progress update: Palliative care development between 2017 and 2020 in five African countries.” The article provides an overview of the role that palliative care advocates, with support from Open Society Foundation – played in developing the sector and access to care in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
It concludes with the following observations, “While all countries have seen real advances, the universal health coverage process—and palliative care’s integration into it—has moved slowly because of complex questions over resources, insurance models, who and what should be covered, and to what extent, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With limited finances, continued advocacy and communications work will be essential to ensuring that when decisions are made on who and what will be covered, palliative care is included. To build on progress to date and ensure that palliative care becomes available to all people who need it in Africa, national governments need to step up and finance palliative care services from national budgets while donors should move from funding specific disease responses to supporting the integration of palliative care.”
These observations align with the opinions expressed by Colgan et al in an article published in October 2021 in South Africa’s online paper The Daily Maverick called, “Palliative care in a time of Covid-19: A patient’s quality of life and dignified death are paramount“. In this they highlight that, ” If palliative care is not included in pandemic preparedness, when the next pandemic rolls around, many more will die in unnecessary suffering, watched over by their helpless traumatised families, who will be scarred forever. Pandemics by their nature cause death but we can at the very least relieve suffering prior to death. Health systems that continue to chase cures for each future pandemic, and continue to ignore palliative care that relieves suffering, do their citizens a huge disservice“.
We are grateful to OSF for their funding and to the African Palliative Care Association for coordinating efforts across the continent to highlight this pressing need.