The new year is often a time when we look back while planning for the future. This was particularly true this January; taking stock of the challenges the Covid pandemic has brought and refocussing our plans and priorities for the future.
Ten years ago, my husband and I were commencing the last stages of our NHS careers wondering what the future would hold for us. Little did we know ‘what was round the corner’!
In 2011 a group of healthcare professionals (including ourselves) led by Dr Kate Carpenter, the Medical Director of Priscilla Bacon Lodge Specialist Palliative Care Centre in Norwich decided to support a hospice in the developing world. Online research brought up Hospice Ethiopia, based in Addis Adaba. Following our initial contact via email, a Memorandum of Understanding was agreed and thus began our support for this remarkable hospice.
Hospice Ethiopia was set up by Tsigerida, an Ethiopian Nurse in 2003 to provide community palliative care to patients in their own homes. It is a registered non-government organisation and receives no government funding so finances are an ongoing worry. Despite these challenges, Hospice Ethiopia has now grown to have 3 full time nurses and Joseph, a part time volunteer palliative care trained Ethiopian doctor.
100+ million people. One hospice. Hospice Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has an estimated population of 107 million. But only one hospice. Many thousands of people there have incurable diseases. They are dying. They are dying in distress, often in pain, with nowhere to turn. Their only hope is Hospice Ethiopia.
Tsigereda retired in 2016 and the Clinical Officer, Ephrem, took over as the Director. Tsigerida and Ephrem both recognised the importance of providing appropriate training for the staff. Specialist training is unavailable in Ethiopia but has been provided to the Hospice Ethiopia nurses by Prof Anne Merriman and Hospice Africa Uganda (based in Kampala.) This is the flagship for palliative care across sub-Saharan Africa and has proven to be an important source for expertise and support for Hospice Ethiopia.
Dr Jamie and Sue Mumford with Director Ephrem and one of Hospice Ethiopia’s patients
Our original Memorandum of Understanding was about education & exchange visits but inevitably fund raising has become a large part of our charity’s (Hospice Ethiopia UK) role.
Visa problems for our Ethiopian partners visiting the UK frustrated the initial aim of exchange visits. However, members from the Norwich group have visited Hospice Ethiopia about once a year since early 2012 and taken out small items of equipment such as stoma bags that are unobtainable or expensive in Ethiopia.
While there, joint visits with the nurses have been carried out to patients; formal & informal teaching provided to a range of healthcare professional; as well as networking with other non-governmental organisations and hospitals. In particular, we have formed links with Dr Nicola Ayers, a British nurse working as a volunteer in the Federal Ministry of Health who has done much to promote the need for palliative care in Ethiopia. We have worked with the UK charity Palliative Care Works who have trained palliative care educators in Ethiopia.
Since we first visited 9 years ago, palliative care has started to develop in the capital Addis Ababa (but not much in the rest of the country as yet, where about 100 million of the country’s 107 million population live). Hospice Ethiopia has been instrumental in developing national palliative care guidelines now approved by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. Education is one area where the UK/Ethiopia partnership has flourished and grown. UK visitors initially had an active educational role, because few Ethiopians had sufficient palliative care expertise. The success of our partnership is evident: many local providers have now been trained as palliative care educators.
Jamie & Sue Mumford (left) with the staff of Hospice Ethiopia UK
Hospice Ethiopia is working hard to train doctors, nurses and other medics about palliative care.
In 2016 Dr Katie Carpenter stepped down as Chair of the group and I took over running it. Supporting the amazing work of the Hospice Ethiopia nurses has become my passion. Having worked as a specialist palliative care nurse in the UK for more than 20 years I have discovered that the symptoms and concerns of Ethiopians with a terminal illness are no different from my own patients-its just the setting that is so different.
Early in 2017 we became a registered UK charity: Hospice Ethiopia UK (HEUK). With help from our family a new website and a facebook page were created: www.hospiceethiopia.org.uk Since then, the support we’ve received has gone from strength to strength. A very successful fundraising event in 2017, led by the Diocese of Norwich raised £44,747 for the purchase and initial running costs of a new 4×4 car, which was desperately needed by Hospice Ethiopia to maintain and enlarge its homecare programme.
Despite the difficulties of fundraising since the pandemic struck in 2020, Hospice Ethiopia UK has maintained its income through online fundraising events and last year we were delighted to be able to send Hospice Ethiopia £34,600-approximately 50% of their running costs. While 2021 looks to be our most challenging fundraising year yet, we have been heartened by the support Hospice Ethiopia UK has received from near and far.
Collaboration and understanding between Norfolk and Hospice Ethiopia has grown and evolved. The development of this partnership has benefited both parties more than we could have ever anticipated, with lasting friendships made. Despite the unavoidable challenges of running organisations, the future for both Hospice Ethiopia and Hospice Ethiopia UK is looking promising, with increasing funds from Hospice Ethiopia UK and other UK charities.
Hospice Ethiopia remains the only specialist hospice in the country. This funding model has helped to ensure its sustainability, and therefore access for an increasing number of Ethiopian patients who would not have otherwise benefited from palliative care.
is pleased to be telling the stories of UK charities created to support the development of hospice palliative care services around the world. If you have a story to share please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org