One of the most difficult things to face in life is to know that you are dying and that you do not have much time left. It is even more difficult if you are suffering in great pain, unable to move or help yourself. This is where palliative care comes in; to support and help people who are at the end of their life by providing care and relief in the most dignifying and manageable way. Palliative care is not about prolonging life, but it is about improving the quality of life left.
86% of the world population do not have access to palliative care and many are unable to afford it. As a consequence, people die in horrendous states, often alone and abandoned by family members who are unable to afford the care needed or give the full time support required due to facing their own levels of poverty and hardship.
Doctors Worldwide is working in Rwanda in collaboration with the one of the first community based palliative care organisations in the country, to help support the scale up and delivery of palliative care for dying and destitute patients who without this care, would die a lonely and painful death. Doctors Worldwide has been supporting the community-based service, which has previously been running on a voluntary basis over the last 5 years through a group of dedicated and committed volunteers and medical workers based in Rwanda. Our holistic approach means that we do not just look at the medical needs of a dying patient, but other important and dignifying needs such as a rehabilitating bathroom, providing shelter, psychosocial support, nutrition and transport to appointments.
Together, we are:
Our palliative care working group consists of Rwandan doctors and nurses, as well as UK healthcare workers who together work to build and develop the training aspect of the project and provide 1-1 mentoring to bring palliative care into the forefront of Rwandan community health. The collaboration between DWW and the local partner is also being supported by the Ministry of Health of Rwanda who has recently entered into an agreement to help support the programme over the next 5 years.
Imagine feeling an extreme pain in the back of your head, and not knowing why, not being able to afford a check-up, and not knowing where to go for help. This is what happened to Aminah, a 61 year old widow with 4 children. Vulnerable, visibly underweight, and with a graphic wound on the back of her scalp, Aminah heard about a local palliative care organisation, walked to their office under duress, and was diagnosed with skin cancer. Not only did the organisation then pay for her X-ray treatment, but they also offered her the necessary materials for cleansing her wound every day, provided transport for each of her hospital appointments and continued to make regular check-ups to her home to ensure she was supported. For many in the same situation as Aminah, this original lack of access to healthcare would have been devastating. For her, the presence of this palliative care organisation changed her life.