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Urgent appeal to Ireland for support following USAID cut to vital funding for palliative care in Africa

Author: Miriam Donohoe
23 June 2015
  • Miriam Donohoe, Head of Communications, The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) presents a donation of €20,000 from the IHF to Hospice Africa Uganda.

The people of Ireland and the Irish Government have been asked to support Hospice Africa Uganda in its battle to continue providing vital services to seriously ill people following a decision by USAID to cut its funding.

The organisation - the leading provider of palliative care in Africa with close ties to Ireland and in particular The Irish Hospice Foundation – is facing a reduction in its funding of 60% due to withdrawal of USAID support this September. This may mean thousands of ill people will continue to face painful deaths as they won’t be able to access  morphine or holistic care.

The funding cut means Hospice Africa Uganda faces a shortfall in funding for 2015-2016 of €200,000, rising to €750,000 in the following years. Currently, Hospice Africa treats 2,100 patients as part of its clinical programme in the three Hospices which it runs in Uganda. 

It needs €600,000 a year to serve more than 2000 patients, working out at €250 per patient per year, or €25 a month.

On Sunday The Irish Hospice Foundation announced a donation of  €20,000 to the organisation with monies raised from its bestselling sons+fathers Book.

The founder of Hospice Africa, Dr Anne Merriman, attended the AGM in Dublin of Hospice Africa Ireland, (HAI), a support organisation for Hospice Africa and Hospice Africa Uganda on Sunday.

She told the AGM of the problems arising, in spite of advanced warning with USAID funding ending after ten years, and appealed to the people of Ireland, and the Irish Government through Irish Aid, to dig deep to help ensure people in Africa can continue to get the palliative care they need.

“As of now we don’t know how we will continue with our work. Hospice Africa is seen as the fulcrum for spreading palliative care throughout Africa. Without Hospice Africa not only does our clinical service come to an end but so too does our education and advocacy work. This could ultimately affect millions of people throughout Africa who will suffer very painful deaths without access to affordable morphine.”

She added: “Our hope is that financial support will come forward. We have sought a meeting with the Minister for Overseas Development Aid, Sean Sherlock, to see if Ireland can commit funding. It costs only €25 a month to provide pain relief for seriously ill people. Any support we can get from Ireland will be gratefully received.”

“We started 22 years ago with just enough funding to keep going for three months. In that period we have treated close to 25,000 patients, and are supporting 25 countries throughout Africa with their Palliative Care programmes." 

Hospice Africa Uganda was founded by Dr Merriman, who was born in Liverpool to Irish parents and did her medical training in UCD, in the 1960’s. Dr Merriman is credited with developing hospice and end of life care across Africa, introducing affordable oral morphine and utterly transforming end of life care for cancer patients. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Sharon Foley, CEO of The Irish Hospice Foundation announced the donation of €20,000 to Hospice Africa Uganda from the proceeds of its fundraising book sons+sathers.

“We are delighted to be able to provide financial support to the inspirational Dr Anne Merriman and her organisation who are doing amazing work in Africa. We support Hospice Africa Uganda in its efforts to get funding support from Ireland," Ms Foley said.

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