Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years . But this is no repeat of the 1983-1985 famine that brought it to the world's attention and gave us the Live Aid Benefit Concert. Robust economic growth supported by significant growth in the agricultural sector has helped the country mitigate the effects of this disaster.
The famine has however left the country vulnerable. Most affected are those already suffering from life limiting illnesses such as cancer and HIV and AIDS. With only 15% of the population accessing health services, an over-stretched health system will not be able to cope with the demands. Ethiopians in need of palliative care will struggle to get the help they require.
In response to this crisis, the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) in partnership with Hospice Ethiopia and with support from the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, the Ethiopian Embassy in London, Ethiopian Diaspora groups and other charities in the UK, is launching an 'Iddir Burial Society appeal' to help 12,289 Ethiopians to access the palliative care they need.
WHPCA and Hospice Ethiopia promote a culturally appropriate palliative care delivery that is home- and community-based, with support from traditional burial societies known as 'Iddir'. Iddir are centuries-old mutual support institutions originally intended to help defray burial expenses, but now used for other community issues. As Iddir evolved from the necessity for mutual assistance, it is natural that they support the poor and chronically ill with palliative care. Iddir will serve as the mechanism supporting home- and community-based care (HCBC) and for mobilising community volunteers.
The mobilisation of Iddir for palliative care provision will be supported by the following major activities which follow a public health approach:
1. mobilisation of 200 Community Health Volunteers
2. training of 200 Student Nurses
3. continuing Medical Education for 45 doctors and Post-Registered Nurses
4. linkages with three hospitals in Addis Ababa; and
5. strengthening the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.
The appeal will enable our partners on the ground to strengthen their capacity to respond to palliative care needs of the most vulnerable through the utilisation of resources available in-country.
Together, let us support Ethiopia to address its problems in a sustainable way.