Palliative Care: Important yet Underemphasised Sector

Today, October 9, 2021, Cameroon joins the international community to commemorate World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, a day many know nothing about.

With this year’s theme of focus being, “Leave no one behind – Equity in access to palliative care,” it is time to throw more light on what really is palliative care and its importance.

A Palliative Care Nurse, Eric Ndzi explains, “Palliative care is care that is given to those who have life-limiting conditions…conditions that cannot be cured. This is done by supporting them through the situation and helping their families assist them.”

The Nurse explains that those in need of palliative care could be assisted with good nursing care by giving treatment for their symptoms, listening to them, offering their presence and prayers and educating them as they live on.

Some of the conditions which need such care include cancer, HIV/AIDS, amputees, neurologic conditions, cardiovascular conditions and other non-communicable diseases.

“Most of these people go through a lot of difficulties. That is why this year, we are saying leave no one behind. In spite of all these challenges, there is need for us to go along with them,” emphasises Eric Ndzi.

Problems faced by Patients in need of Palliative Care

Many of the patients in need of palliative care go through a lot of pain – physical, psychological (trauma) and spiritual.

Some do not have the finances to access their treatment especially due to poverty or the loss of a job during sickness.

Another major problem is the unavailability of pain control medications like oral liquid Morphine as Eric Ndzi, the Palliative Care Nurse explains. “The substitutes are also expensive,” he notes.

Proposed Solutions to Reach out to Those in Need of Palliative Care

Eric Ndzi suggests, “Our nursing and medical training schools should have palliative care in their curricular.”

He also proposes that medications be made available especially, the oral liquid Morphine.

Social, psychological and spiritual counselling is also necessary for patients and even their families.

Testimony

36-year-old, Elvis Atabong is grateful for the palliative care he has received from a Project dubbed “1000 Project”.

Elvis’ story dates back to 2016 when rashes first appeared on his feet. He tried treating them at home without success so went to the hospital and it turned out to be cancer.

His resources were limited so he went to a palliative care centre in Mutengene (a town in the South West Region of Cameroon) which receives donations from the “1000 Project”.

There, he was given pain killers and sometimes, money to feed since he lost his job due to the inability to walk.

The “1000 Project” also assisted him to purchase medications.

Elvis Atabong is grateful for such assistance and calls on all to support people like him so they too can lead a normal life.

About the “1000 Project”

Barnabas Wango, one of the Board Members of the “1000 Project” says it was birthed in 2017 after the Communication Unit of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services worked on a magazine on palliative care.

The team wrote true life stories about people who were going to die or who were in pain and needed pain medication but could not afford it.

It was a pretty emotional situation and it moved the team of reporters to take the commitment to contribute atleast 1000 CFAF every year to buy medication for such patients.

“They then began to tell their family members, friends and acquaintances about the project. The network has grown so widely with some people contributing over a 1000 CFAF yearly,” states Barnabas Wango with an optimistic smile.

In 2017, the project raised 303,000 CFAF, in 2018, 625,000 CFAF, in 2019, 700,000 CFAF and in 2020, 600, 000 CFAF, giving a grand total of about 2.2 million CFAF contributed thus far.

“This 2.2 million CFAF has been used to provide pain medication to over 500 patients for free. We collect this money throughout the year, then choose a facility that deals with patients in need of palliative care. We get to their management and make donations. Our challenge is to make others reach out to such patients in communities,” Barnabas Wango concludes.

Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi

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