Monday, September 29, 2014

Refreshment in a dry land

Imagine 45 degree heat and 7 hours of teaching per day when all of your participants have not eaten or drunk anything since 3am. Add some of the most hospitable and generous people you have met with a heart to make a difference for the suffering and needy in their country along with amazing culture, colourful markets and fantastic food (after 730pm) and you have sense of my recent experience in Khartoum, Sudan during Ramadan. Dr Nahla Gafer, clinical oncologist and palliative care champion at RICK (Radiation Isotope Centre Khartoum), along with Dr Ahmed Elhaj, Dr Mohja Khair Allah, Mr Alfaki Suliman (from Soba hospital) and the rest of the team arranged the first palliative care training for oncology staff. This was in partnership with the Comboni College led by the inspirational Fr Beppino Puttinato and Fr Jorge Naranjo

They invited facilitators from the Makerere Palliative Care Unit to share their experience and to join the Sudanese team to teach and advocate for palliative care.  More than 20 students from 4 hospitals, representing several disciplines and levels of experience worked hard with a willingness to share and consider how they will implement their learning. We had key discussions and offers of support from the Ministry of Health non-comunicable diseases department and the WHO representatives. We met committed hospital directors  from the Khartoum Breast Cancer Center, RICK and Medani and heard of the progress in access to oral morphine and the hope to integrate palliative care throughout the hospital setting even beyond oncology and to dream of how this can be available in the rural settings of this large and varied country. We heard too of the challenges with high inflation, geographical distances, lack of training options available in
Sudan and the many upheavals politically in the region. For Mwazi Batuli and myself as well as student and Sudan enthusiast Emilie Myers it was an amazing 2 weeks. We miss the baobab and karkadi drinks, the rugag soaked in milk, the guiding skills of young Yousif, Arabic henna, bustling night markets, the sound of the muzzein folllowed by mouth watering  fatur and the deep

faith of Sudan's people but feel privileged to be part of this palliative care journey and look forward to being able to work together in the future. I return with my Sudanese name; Dr Mohira, a beautiful Dafuri basket on my wall, some Arabic henna, a few more Arabic words, a new tribal dagger to cut the haggis at my Burns night celebrations and the joy of renewing friendships, building new relationships and
see people transformed to influence and change their health systems. Shukran. Maybe next time we will get to explore more of this amazing country but to all the palliative care friends we wish you well and know you are going to do great things inshallah.
Anyone reading this and near Scotland this week we would love to share more of the work of Cairdeas 4th or 5th October. 

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