Kenyan children in acute and chronic pain suffer needlessly because of government policies that restrict access to inexpensive pain medicine and lack of investment in palliative care services, Human Rights Watch has said in a report.
The report dubbed, “Needless Pain: Government Failure to Provide Palliative Care for Children in Kenya” found that most Kenyan children with diseases such as cancer or HIV and AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medicines.
“Kenyan children with cancer or AIDS are living and dying in horrible agony,” said Juliane Kippenberg, a senior children’s rights researcher at HRW.
“Pain medicines are cheap, safe, and effective and the government should make sure that children who need them get them,” Kippenberg added.
The report noted that the Kenyan government had taken a step in the right direction by establishing a few hospital palliative care units in recent years but said much more needs to be done to stop sick children from suffering needlessly.
The report further said world health organization considers oral morphine an essential medicine for treating chronic pain, as does Kenya’s own drug policy. Yet, the Kenyan government does not purchase oral morphine for public health facilities as it does other essential medicines.
“Oral morphine is available in just seven of the country’s approximately 250 public hospitals. Although 250,000 people in Kenya are on antiretroviral treatment, all the morphine in the country could treat pain in only 1,500 terminal cancer or AIDS patient,” the report observed.
Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan government to make oral morphine available in all public hospitals, to ensure that health care workers are trained in palliative care, and to integrate children’s palliative care into its health services, including home-based care.
“The Kenyan government and donors should be working to improve pain treatment for everyone,” Kippenbergh said. “And they should make sure that the youngest and most vulnerable sufferers, sick children, are not left out. They should not be suffering needlessly.”