Policy and Advocacy

2021; Volume 22, No 5, May

By Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD
IAHPC Advocacy Officer for Palliative Care Medicines

Reports on IAHPC Side Events at the UN, and Roundtable with Head of the WHO

IAHPC convened two virtual side events at regular sessions of UN organizations in April, and co-organized a second roundtable on palliative care with Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, to futher develop our action-oriented Joint Program of Work. The detailed program of the April 28 roundtable with Dr. Tedros—with bios, and links to the testimony, interventions, and slides—can be found on our Advocacy page. This two-hour event was cosponsored by the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance and the International Federation on Ageing.

Prior to the April 28 Roundtable, IAHPC members around the world participated in real-time intense discussions with the WHO Secretariat, a handful of member states, and other civil society organizations, on how palliative care is an issue for selected topics on the agenda of the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA). Their statements are part of the meeting record. I will report on the WHA in next month’s column!

I hosted the OEWGA side event with speakers Dr. Zipporah Ali, Dr. Simone Cernesi, Dr. Farzana Khan, Ms. Harmala Gupta, and Mr. Marvin Mutch.
The 11th UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA)

I have been participating in the OEWGA since 2014, and have reported in every newsletter since. We have had many side events, but this was our first one on “Palliative Care Needs of Older Persons During The Pandemic.” Held virtually on April 1, the panelists were Dr. Simone Cernesi, Movimento Giotto, who spoke about palliative care in nursing homes in Italy; Dr. Zipporah Ali, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association, who described KEHPCA’s work with older adults in the community; Dr. Farzana Khan, Fasiuddin Khan Research Foundation, who provides palliative care at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; IAHPC Board Member Ms. Harmala Gupta, founder of CanSupport , who talked about volunteer work to support older adults in the community; and Mr. Marvin Mutch, program associate of the Humane Prison Hospice Project, who gave a moving presentation about the need for palliative care for incarcerated older adults in California. A recording of the event is available on the IAHPC YouTube channel.

64th Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Dr. Lilian Hidalgo dons a mask that lifts spirits on the wards. “A positive attitude is the only option,” she says. Photo used with permission.

Advocacy urging governments to improve access to essential palliative care medicines was given a lot of airtime at the 64th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, both in the plenary (held virtually and in person), and in five side events—three specifically on the topic of medicines—held on the margins of the session, with participants and panelists from around the world. IAHPC Research Officer Dr. Tania Pastrana, joining from Aachen, gave a statement about the critical shortages of medicines in Latin America; she spoke during a “high-level” side event on essential controlled medicines hosted by the governments of Belgium and Australia. The official IAHPC side event on “Procurement, Pricing, and Access to Controlled Medicines during COVID-19” was cosponsored by Harm Reduction International and Dejusticia, along with several UN Organizations, Belgium, and Australia. Recordings of the presentations can be found on the IAHPC YouTube channel.

News from the front lines in Peru...
Dr. Nahla Gafer, part of the IAHPC delegation ?at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs Regular Session in 2019. Photo used with permission.

“The current condition in Peru is very complex. The health system of the country has collapsed, because the lack of support/interest of the government and politicians over the last three decades. More than 400 physicians have died, in the last year, secondary to COVID-19. Fortunately, we are descendants of the Incas: we are very strong and courageous!”—Dr. Lilian Hidalgo, Lima geriatrician and palliative care specialist

We agree, and this is why IAHPC advocates at all levels of the multilateral system for strong primary health care systems that include palliative care. We are with you, Dr. Hidalgo!

...and the Sudan

Join me in congratulating IAHPC Board Member Dr. Nahla Gafer, an oncologist and palliative care specialist in Khartoum, on her appointment as Assistant Director of Khartoum Oncology Hospital. This hospital is soon to be returned to the Federal Ministry of Health as it serves 80% of cancer patients in Sudan. These changes are part of the new era for Sudan after the December 2018 revolution. Dr. Gafer says she “aspires to a good working environment for her colleagues and a service placing the patient at the center of care. With 12 social workers and psychologists, more palliative care can be offered to patients. What an opportunity!”

Do you have any comments or questions about this piece or our advocacy program?

Contact Dr. Katherine Pettus

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