By Watchdog reporter

Seven health ministers from across Africa will from August 16 to 19, attend the 5th International African Palliative Care Conference at Speke Resort, Kampala. The conference themed ‘Hospice and Palliative Care: Resolution to Action – Differentiated Care for Diverse Communities’ is hosted by the African Palliative Care Association and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance.

The ministers from The Gambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Libya, Sudan, and South Africa will be hosted by the  by the Ugandan Ministry of Health to discuss progress in palliative care in their respective countries, measured against the 2014 World Health Assembly Resolution on ‘Strengthening palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course’.

This resolution calls on governments across the world to integrate palliative care into national health systems, allocating budget and human resources, as well as training and access to pain relieving medications for their citizens.

At a media conference held at the Uganda Media Centre, Uganda’s State Minister for Health, Sarah Opendi said, “Around the world, over 18 million people die annually in avoidable pain and distress due to a lack of access to pain medications and quality palliative care. 40 million people need palliative care annually including 20 million at the end of life. Only 14% of the need for palliative care is being met at the end of life, while less than 10% of the need is met overall.”

Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, Executive Director of APCA, and conference co-chair, added: “This conference is monumental to ensure this resolution reaches from political spheres to African households at the urban and village level. As millions of patients and families eagerly await health services that address physical, social, psychological and spiritual pain and suffering – both for themselves and their loved ones –we know this conference can make all the difference.”

Around the world, over 18 million people die in avoidable pain and distress due to a lack of access to pain medications and quality palliative care.

More than 40 million people need palliative care annually including 20 million at the end of life. Only 14% of the need for palliative care is being met at the end of life, while less than 10% of the need is met overall.

Dr. Stephen Connor, Executive Director of the WHPCA, and conference co-chair, said: “The theme for this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is:Living and Dying in Pain: It doesn’t have to happen. We know how to relieve pain and suffering, but in most countries people still live and die without the care they need. This conference will help to mobilise governments and highlight the need for more progress in implementing the critical elements of the WHA resolution.”

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, 75% of the world (5.5 billion people) have limited or no access to proper pain relief treatment. With the highest concentration of the global disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa due to HIV and AIDS, and rising non-communicable disease incidence rates, the majority of people living and dying without access to pain management and palliative care reside in African countries. This disproportionate burden has created an urgent need for hospice and palliative care services across Africa.

The conference will bring together hospice and palliative care professionals and volunteers from across Africa and internationally to share experiences, discuss the latest research and build new partnerships to address the challenges facing palliative care in African countries and globally.

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