Bridging cultures, connecting lives

Bridging cultures, connecting lives
By: Center for Hospice Care Last Updated: December 3, 2019

It’s been said that pain and suffering know no borders. In 10 years of partnership with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda we have found that the same can be said of compassion. Since 2008, Center for Hospice Care has been in partnership with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU), whose mission is “to promote and support affordable and culturally appropriate palliative care throughout Uganda.”

The focus of this partnership is capacity building, advocacy and knowledge sharing. One of the partnership’s early strategic priorities was to find sustainable office space for PCAU’s headquarters. In its infancy, PCAU volunteers and staff members worked from the offices of both Hospice Africa Uganda and the African Palliative Care Association. In 2012, proceeds from Center for Hospice Care/Hospice Foundation’s inaugural Okuyamba Fest, were directed toward purchasing a facility. PCAU’s long-awaited dream of having a permanent home was realized in 2013.

During the last 10 years, PCAU has also successfully supported the expansion of palliative care services to 94 out of 127 districts of Uganda. However, there are still a number of unmet needs. It is estimated that only 10% of the Ugandan population with palliative care needs can access these services. PCAU is working with the Uganda Ministry of Health on integrating palliative care into the country’s healthcare education and delivery system.

“It all started when we were partnered with Center for Hospice Care. We owe a big thank you to Mark Murray for buying into our vision,” said Rose Kiwanuka, Country Director for PCAU. “The partnership has made PCAU visible, and it is the most successful partnership I’ve seen globally. We have learned from each other and have become brothers and sisters.”

The partnership has been involved in a number of initiatives to increase awareness of the need for

palliative care and train providers. These include: Diploma in Clinical Palliative Care Having healthcare providers specially trained in palliative care and licensed to prescribe morphine is essential to the provision of palliative care in remote areas of Uganda. CHC/HF has helped support this initiative through its sponsorship of scholarships in Hospice Africa Uganda’s Diploma in Clinical Palliative Care program.

This one-year course equips clinical officers and nurses with the skills needed to prescribe morphine and deliver palliative care. Those who complete the course return to their communities to provide these critical services. Through 2018, CHC/HF has sponsored 62 students in the program. Okuyamba Film

To shed light on the challenges of delivering palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa, the Hospice Foundation produced two powerful documentaries: Okuyamba and Road to Hope.

The award-winning documentary Okuyamba uses powerful interviews with some of Uganda’s leading palliative care experts. The film exposes the viewer to the harsh realities of living with life-limiting illnesses in this small, land-locked East African country, where a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS or cancer is regarded as a death sentence. These patients find a better quality of life in their final days, with the help of Rose Kiwanuka and her small group of compassionate palliative care professionals. The documentary also sheds light on the tremendous work being done with extremely limited resources.

It was the success of CHC’s partnership with PCAU that led the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) to contact CHC and the Hospice Foundation to consider becoming the new home for Global Partners in Care (GPIC), which was created in 1999 as a response to the burgeoning HIV/AIDS crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Incorporated as the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa, the organization now works with 41 hospice programs across the U.S. to support 41 hospice and palliative care programs in 13 low-resource countries around the world. GPIC officially became a part of the Hospice Foundation in January of 2017.