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Annamaria Garoes

Annamaria Garöes (34) is helped by palliative care nurses to cope with both AIDS and TB as she raises three young children, including five-year-old Franshial (pictured)

Palliative care in Africa

Although it enables patients to live their lives fully and to die free from pain and in minimal distress, palliative care remains neglected in Africa. In 2007 more than two million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa. In the same year, throughout Africa over half a million people died from cancer. Few will have died a pain-free, dignified death.

Frequently palliative care doesn't even feature in national health strategies, for several reasons:

  • A lack of understanding about palliative care
  • A shortage of trained professionals
  • Rudimentary health and social care infrastructures
  • Restrictive drug laws that limit the availability of essential pain-controlling drugs such as morphine.

In 29 African countries, morphine and other opioids (drugs classified by the WHO as essential for effective pain control) are not legally available for medical use

These challenges are big - but there's plenty we can do to overcome them. We just have to create the right opportunities. The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) was formed to do just that.

Niklaas Coetzee (39) lives with HIV. Thanks to palliative care he can now walk with the help of a frame