Palliative care patient’s testimony: Because I matter

Sophia* a divorced mother living with HIV from Seke Zimbabwe lived a very stressful and painful life. In 2016, Sophia decided to come back home and stay at her late parents’ house. Like many women in Zimbabwe Sophia became a victim of gender-based violence.

Her uncle, who was her father’s brother started harassing her forcing her to leave the family home since she is a female child and not entitled to inherit anything from her parents according to “culture”. Sophia survives on subsistence farming but she ended up getting nothing from her hard work, her uncle would uproot all her crops and vandalize her property. At one point, he even threatened to kill her if she did not leave the homestead. But, everything changed when she was enrolled on a palliative care programme.

Seke Rural Hospice, a member of Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe (HOSPAZ) enrolled Sophia on their palliative care program and she shared her problems with the caregiver.

The case was assigned to one of the 40 lawyers who attended sensitization meetings and introductory training on palliative care jointly facilitated by HOSPAZ, one of its members, Island Hospice and Healthcare, and Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC).

The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) provided the necessary technical and funding support for the entire program on integrating legal services into palliative care.

Thus, armed with the requisite knowledge and skills he had acquired from the capacity building, the lawyer visited Sophia in Seke and immediately realized the case needed a swift response to relieve Sophia from such stress. Having established that even the local headman had unsuccessfully tried to protect Sophia from her violent and abusive uncle, the lawyer approached the Chitungwiza Magistrate Courts where he managed to secure a protection order for his client. That became the turning point in Sophia’s life.

Currently, Sophia is living in peace and her uncle has stopped harassing her. Sharing her testimony at the recent Joint Review Meeting on integrating legal services into palliative care hosted by HOSPAZ Sophia had this to say, (“Ndaigara ndichishungurudzwa nabamunini vangu vachida kundidzinga pamusha wevabereki vangu kuti vana vavo vavake. Ndanga ndisina zororo, kazhinji ndaitukwa pasina kana chandatadza, zvakandikanganisa pahutano hwangu chaipo ndainge ndisisina mufaro. Ndaiti kana ndakarima vaidzura zvirimwa zvese, umwe musi vakatondiudza kuti ndakaramba kubva vaizondiuraya.

Caregiver wangu weku Seke Rural Hospice akazondibvunza kuti nei ndanga ndakuonda ndakamuudzawo matambudziko andaisanganana nawo kumba. Akabva atondiudza nezvechirongwa chemalawyer cheHOSPAZ uye kuti vaikwanisa kundibatsira. Ndakazowana rubatsiro rwa lawyer ndakapiwa protection order. Kubva ipapo ndigare zvakanaka!) I faced abuse at the hands of my uncle who wanted to give my late parent’s property to his children.

I was always stressed and it really affected my health because he was always harassing me. Sometimes he would uproot all my crops, at one point he threatened to kill me. I later shared my problem with my caregiver at Seke Rural Hospice after she asked why I had lost so much weight drastically. She then told me about the HOSPAZ project and how I they can assign a palliative care trained lawyer to help with my case. A lawyer was later assigned to my case and I was granted a protection order. Since then, I have been living in peace, said Sophia with a huge smile.

Sophia’s story is just a tip of an iceberg. The wellbeing of most palliative care patients in Zimbabwe has been compromised with many of them facing abuse from their close family members and relatives, yet they can be relieved of such stress.

The ultimate goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family, regardless of diagnosis. Palliative Care is about preventing and reliving pain and suffering from adults and children with serious or life threatening illnesses. It is about managing all pain and symptoms associated with life threatening illnesses be it physical, emotional, social or spiritual pain.

Over the years, HOSPAZ the national coordinating body for palliative care providing organizations in Zimbabwe has been working towards integrating palliative care into other services within the national health system and offering a comprehensive package for all patients in need of palliative care. HOSPAZ through its partners has facilitated the provision of not only clinical care but also, human rights and legal support, psychological support and socio economic support to patients and their families.

Worldwide, efforts have also been made to raise awareness on palliative care issues. Every second Saturday of October, the world commemorates World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD). WHPCD is a unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world and this year’s theme is “Because I matter.”

The second Friday in October, which this year falls on Friday 12 October 2018, is a day for raising international awareness of the work of children’s hospices and children’s palliative care (CPC) services worldwide. The campaign is called Hats On for Children’s Palliative Care with the hashtag #HatsOn4CPC. The day aims to raise funds for children’s
palliative care, but more importantly, to raise awareness of the rights of very sick children with incurable and life-threatening illnesses to receive palliative care.

To commemorate these important days, The Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in collaboration with HOSPAZ and other care providers will host an awareness raising campaign on 09 November 2018 at Blakiston Primary School. HOSPAZ intends to share knowledge and raise awareness on palliative care especially for children. On this special day, students will be asked to bring a hat and write short messages for encouraging their colleagues who are facing life-threatening illnesses. They will also participate in the commemorations through poetry, song and dance.

In addition, HOSPAZ will run a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. The “Hats On” campaign is open to the public, various stakeholders and partners. Just like in previous years, people are encouraged to wear their hats and tag HOSPAZ on the Facebook (Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe) and Twitter (@hospaz) pages.

* Not her real name

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