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Palliative Care Association Marks 25 Years of Advocacy

Individuals in remote locations and poverty-stricken areas struggle to access essential medical sundries, such as colostomy bags.

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The Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) has donated medical sundries to several facilities, including Little Hospice Hoima, New Life Hospice Arua, Lweza Community Health Programme, SD Cancer and Palliative Care Clinic Jinja, Kitovu Mobile, and Kabale Christian Care. This initiative aims to extend care to individuals experiencing life-threatening illnesses, thereby improving the quality of life for patients, their families, and caregivers.

These essential services can be accessed through hospital palliative care teams, facility-based services, outreach programs, roadside clinics, outpatient clinics, and home-based care services in Uganda. A 2021 survey conducted by PCAU revealed that individuals in remote locations and poverty-stricken areas struggle to access essential medical sundries, such as colostomy bags.

This forces them to improvise with unsanitary materials, compromising their dignity. PCAU assists financially struggling cancer patients at hospital palliative care units and hospices who cannot purchase vital medical sundries, particularly for use at home. This support allows patients to spend time in a familiar setting with loved ones, in a comfortable state. However, patient readiness is required, as emphasized by Joyce Zalwango, the Capacity Building Manager at PCAU.

Palliative care also aims to prevent and relieve suffering through the early identification, impeccable assessment, and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial, or spiritual.

Despite efforts to make palliative care accessible to all in need, services remain scarce, accommodating only 11% of the needy population with adequate treatment. Annually, 34,008 new cases of cancer are registered in the country, yet the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) receives only 20% of these cases. World Health Organization reports suggest that at least 700 of the 3,000 children in Uganda diagnosed with cancer each year go to UCI for treatment, while the majority remain in the communities but still need palliative care.

The Palliative Care Association of Uganda has accredited 230 medical facilities to offer palliative care services, including administering oral liquid morphine in 107 districts of Uganda. Mark Mwesiga, the Executive Director of PCAU, stated that they have obtained a grant from the American Cancer Society to provide in-kind assistance to cancer patients lacking basic medical supplies at home or in hostels.

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Mark Mwesiga, the Executive Director of PCAU

Joyce Zalwango emphasized that the grants will ensure the most urgently needed products are supplied to those in need, helping to manage symptoms, maintain comfort and dignity, assist caregivers, and enhance the overall quality of life.

The Palliative Care Association of Uganda (PCAU) is an association of palliative care providers and well-wishers in Uganda. It was established in 1999 and registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in 2003 to support and promote the development of palliative care in Uganda.

In 2024, PCAU commemorates 25 years of coordinating and advocating for palliative care in Uganda, marking the silver jubilee with a series of activities, including donations.

PCAU has a membership of 30 organizations and over 1,500 individual members. It works in partnership with the Ministry of Health, other government ministries, agencies, departments, civil society, and individuals to accelerate the integration of palliative care into Uganda’s healthcare system.

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