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Initiators course strengthens palliative care services in Francophone Africa

Author: Dr Lou Millington, Hospice Africa (Soins Palliatifs) France
25 October 2012

Inaugural Francophone palliative care initiators course drew students from Cameroon, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Palliative Care is a relatively new medical specialty in many parts of Africa, particularly in Francophone countries.

According to a Human Rights Watch report on the Global State of Pain Treatment, the minimal data that is available from French speaking Africa indicates patchy services in a few countries and non-existent palliative care coverage in most. This is coupled with limited access to morphine or no access at all

To this end, Hospice Africa (soins palliatifs) France (HAF) was conceived with the aim of spreading affordable palliative care in Francophone Africa.

To address the need for holistic care in life-limiting illnesses, which include non-communicable diseases and the burden associated with HIV/AIDS, more training is needed.

Cameroon was chosen as the country in which to launch a comprehensive Francophone palliative care training course – the first of its kind. It is a bilingual country and palliative care is already available in several centres in both mission and government hospitals, in Anglophone and Francophone zones. Oral liquid morphine is available through the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board, CBC (See Aortic Newsletter “Palliative Care in Cameroon” report).

Based on a palliative care course already offered by Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), a 5-week "initiators" course was devised in a collaborative effort between HAU, Hospice Africa France, L’Alliance Mondiale Contre le Cancer (AMCC) and CBC. 

The faculty included staff from each of these institutions as well as the president of the National Cancer Committee of Cameroon (Prof Doh), the head of oncology services at the General Hospital in Yaounde (Prof Ndom), the director of the Cancer Register in Yaounde (Dr Orock) and faculty from Hospice Africa UK.

Since many of the Cameroonian staff and students had close links with the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Cameroon (HPCAC) the training afforded an opportunity for members to hold a formal meeting, attended by Dr Wefuan, the President of HPCAC.

The cost for the 5-week residential course ran from April 2nd to May 4th 2012 and was attended by 14 Francophone students from four different countries (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Senegal) consisting of doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and social workers.

The course combined three weeks of lectures with two weeks of practical placements, covering a range of palliative care topics and culminating with a ‘Training of Trainers’ week.

Follow-up with the 14 students is on-going, in Cameroon and further afield. The students are in the process of setting up a Francophone palliative care network to provide support and resources for Francophone palliative care workers and several are working to develop their own palliative care services. 

We wish them every success with their efforts and Hospice Africa France aims to continue its support of them in their endeavours - may they continue to have “fire in the belly” for palliative care for many years to come!

For further details regarding Francophone palliative care courses, please visit the Hospice Africa (Soins Palliatifs) France website.

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