An African palliative care ‘No make-up selfie’

I today wrote this article for the Africa edition of ehospice news about why I posted a #NoMakeUpSelfie of myself on Facebook and why I donated money to the African Palliative Care Association (APCA)

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The ‘No make-up selfies’ trend has had extraordinary results. Cancer Research UK have reported that they have been donated over £2 million in just a few days.

While this social media trend has been dominated by those living in Australia, the UK and the US, sadly we know that cancer is a truly global problem. However, this global problem disproportionately impacts on low and middle income countries.

Indeed, we know that 70% of deaths caused by cancer are found in low and middle income countries.

The disparities don’t stop there. Here in Uganda, where the African Palliative Care Association is based, there is just one radiotherapy machine in the whole country. This one machine it is reported, can break down for weeks at a time.

In the UK by contrast, for a similar sized population, there are hundreds of radiotherapy machines available.

For almost every cancer patient in the UK there is access to basic pain control medications. Again though, just like the ‘No make-up selfies’ this is a luxury disproportionately enjoyed by those living in the UK, US and Australia.

recent study found that 4 billion people, over half of the world’s population, live in countries where regulatory barriers leave cancer patients suffering excruciating pain.

Part of what the African Palliative Care Association does is to campaign and lobby for everyone across Africa to have access to these pain medications. It is not a luxury that should only be enjoyed in developed countries but a fundamental human right that should be available to all.

ehospice reported last November that “Opioids are often unavailable [in Africa], and access is significantly impaired by widespread over-regulation that is pervasive across the region. In many countries access to strong painkillers such as morphine is impossible as they remain legally restricted.”

The results of this grim, often unspoken about, reality is that many cancer patients in countries like Uganda are diagnosed late and have little or insufficient access to treatments. A cancer diagnosis then is often a death penalty and this death comes with little support or access to pain medications.

There is no other way of saying this, cancer patients across Africa are too often left to die in considerable pain.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. All across Africa, the African Palliative Care Association are helping governments and other strategic partners to respond to this challenge.

If you feel, like everyone at the African Palliative Care Association does, that no cancer patient should ever be left to die in preventable pain then please support the ‘No make-up selfie’ spirit and post a photo of yourself on Facebook, donate, and ask others to support us.

Our work is only possible because of your support.  Please consider donating monthly whatever you can afford. The smallest of donations can have the biggest of impacts.

To donate, just click here.

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