Do you know how many patients in Kenya live with and die in excruciating pain? Many!

The Ministry of Health of Kenya estimates 38000 new cancer patients yearly, 27000 of whom will die within 2years of their diagnosis. Over 80% of these patients present with advanced illness and are candidates for palliative care. Few people in Kenya understand the meaning of palliative care and thus the reason why many cancer patients die while at home. Many patients will be discharged from hospital when the health care workers realize there is nothing much they can do to help the patient recover yet there is an approach known as palliative care that can help a patient live his /her last days pain free . KEHPCA and palliative care providers in Kenya are working harder towards helping these patients and improving their quality of life through offering palliative care services.

Poverty has affected thousands of Kenyans impeding many to access and afford quality health care. Children are left orphans while spouses are widowed in their early age. According to the Kenya Cancer network  Leading Cancers cases in Women is Breast (34 per 100,000), Cervical (25 per 100,000) while in men its Prostate (17 per 100,000), Esophageal (9 per 100,000).

A nurse trained in palliative care narrates how devastated she feels when she losses a young mother of 32 years of age. She adds that majority of them present with severe bleeding hoping to get well and go back to their homes but unfortunately they succumb to the disease and die. This leaves most families in debts and more financially drained.

Kenya Hospice and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), the umbrella body for hospices and palliative care  in the country works on efforts to relieve this pain and suffering by advocating for palliative care; which is care that focuses on improving the quality of life for those patients with life threatening illnesses like cancer, advanced diabetes and HIV/AIDS among others. In addition KEHPCA promotes and supports acceptable, accessible and affordable quality palliative care for individuals and families by creating networks of informed and empowered institutions in Kenya.

In collaboration with the Ministry of health and other stakeholders, KEHPCA has been able to influence changes to better quality of lives of many patients through supporting the palliative care units and government hospitals in Kenya. These services can be accessed easily by patients all over Kenya. In Kenya, palliative care is provided as inpatient, outpatient and home based. Palliative care ensures that the patient is taken care in a holistic approach; physically, socially, spiritually, psychologically. All these aspects ensure that a patient lives pain free. Patients are put into support groups that enable them share their everyday experiences and journeys in life living with different conditions.

Many stakeholders including donors, partners, friends of KEHPCA and the Ministry of health have come out to support palliative care initiatives which ensures that patients get quality services. Palliative care is everyone’s business thus let everyone know that we all need to be part of the business of taking care of them.