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The Women and Caregivers behind Uganda’s Model for Palliative Care

About 70 percent of the 2,000 patients on Hospice Africa Uganda’s programme have cancer, and some are HIV positive too. Few can afford tests or treatment for their conditions and, even when they can, it is not uncommon for doctors to misdiagnose or fail to prescribe adequate pain relief. HAU was founded in 1993 by Irish doctor Anne Merriman, who still lives in Kampala, though, at 87, has stepped back from the day-to-day running of the organisation. Today, HAU is run by a team of just over 70 health professionals and admin staff across three city sites: Kampala, Mbarara and Hoima in the west. But drastic cuts in funding have left HAU’s already tight resources even more stretched. Health spending in Uganda is just 2.3 percent of GDP, well below the 15 percent agreed by African governments in 2001. The result is a health system ill-equipped to meet the universal health care goals, where hospitals are desperately understaffed, the poor cannot access treatment and the rich travel abroad in search of cures.