Working towards excellence in Ethiopian hospice and palliative care

Wednesday, 07 October 2015 Print

Dr Ephrem Abathun, Clinical Head of Department at Hospice Ethiopia, and Nicola Ayers, the Palliative Care Advisor at the Federal Ministry of Health, Ethiopia, were interviewed by the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) to mark the start of the partnership between WHPCA and Hospice Ethiopia.


What is the current availability and accessibility of hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia?

At the moment, hospice and palliative care services in Ethiopia are limited. There are only two Non-Governmental Organisations working in Addis Ababa. These services provide limited coverage in the capital, covering four of the 10 sub-cities.

What does Hospice Ethiopia aim to achieve?

Hospice Ethiopia aims to be a centre of excellence in the provision of quality hospice care services to all people with life-threatening illness and to be a centre for training and research in Ethiopia.

Tell us about the challenges and opportunities that Hospice Ethiopia faces to provide palliative care for all?

To provide palliative care in Ethiopia is an enormous task. The challenges we face are various.

Firstly there is a lack of awareness about palliative care as a concept. Secondly, to provide coverage for a population of 90 million people is a huge undertaking, outside of the cities most people work as farmers in very rural areas.

The need for trained health care professionals is huge and morphine availability is still an issue. Furthermore, obtaining finance for palliative care services is also a big challenge.

However, we also have great opportunities as an organisation, we have been working with the Federal Ministry of Health by helping to prepare national guidelines and teaching doctors, nurses and pharmacists about pain assessment and control.

Where do you see the future opportunities for hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia?

Future opportunities include the scale-up of palliative care services in the country. As already mentioned, hospice and palliative care is only available in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Other opportunities would also include the wide-spread training of all levels of health care professionals. Furthermore, we would also like to see more palliative care research carried out in Ethiopia.

Where do you see hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia in 2030?

In 2030, we would see hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia as a part of the current exciting health structure. We would also see palliative care training given to medical students and student nurses and other allied health care professionals. We would also like to see palliative care being practised as an evidence-based speciality.

What is the main lesson you have learned working at Hospice Ethiopia?

Personally, the main lesson I have learnt working at Hospice Ethiopia is the importance of working as a team and providing a ‘family-style’ service.

There is an Ethiopian proverb that states: “for one person 50 lemons is a burden, for 50 people, 50 lemons are like jewellery.”

The background to this proverb is that in the countryside, lemons were given by men to women to show their love for each other. A man gives a lemon, a bit like in the West, we would give an engagement ring.

Therefore, the meaning of this proverb demonstrates that if the burden of palliative care is a shared concern, it will turn into something beautiful.

How is Hospice Ethiopia currently working with the WHPCA?

Hospice Ethiopia is currently working with WHPCA in various ways. Firstly, WHPCA and Hospice Ethiopia are collaborating in trying to create awareness globally about the need for hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia.

Secondly, WHPCA is helping Hospice Ethiopia with finding appropriate funding for the various projects and plans. Currently, Hospice Ethiopia is working with local community organisations to create awareness about palliative care.

What do you most need help with from the global hospice and palliative care community to advance your work?

We would appreciate support from the global hospice and palliative care community by creating significant links and providing technical support for our programmes.

As Ethiopia has so few palliative care health care professionals, further training support would be of great benefit to the country.

Financial support for medicines and social care would be beneficial. Many of our poor patients earn less than £15 a month and we try to support them during this very difficult time.

What do the new global goals mean for hospice and palliative care in Ethiopia?

When we consider the global goals, universal coverage of palliative care (Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being) will be a great challenge and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines will be something that Hospice Ethiopia will be working towards with its various partners.

Find out more about the work of Hospice Ethiopia and The WHPCA online.

Contact Us

  34-44 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JG, United Kingdom

  by phone: +44(0) 207 520 8200

  by fax: +44(0) 207 278 1021

  by e-mail: info@thewhpca.org

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