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Widening Healthcare Access in Host And Humanitarian Settings

24 September 2019


Ahead of THET's 2019 Annual Conference, Vicky Opia, Executive Director of the Peace Hospice in Adjumani, Uganda tells us about the challenges she faces in providing healthcare to refugee and host communities.

As a nurse working in a remote corner of Uganda, where access to health care can be a challenge for both our host population and the same number again of refugees fleeing conflict in South Sudan, this conference theme is dear to my heart. My own journey has taken me through training as a nurse, palliative care specialist and a Fellowship in Leadership. These skills, alongside a supportive family, amazing colleagues and rich partnerships have led me to a place where I can really make a difference though so much more needs to be done. I am the focal point for palliative care in Adjumani District, work in the District Hospital and have also founded an NGO, Peace Hospice, to help extend the work of chronic disease and palliative care right into to people homes including in the refugee settlements.

Palliative care is an essential component of healthcare provision in humanitarian settings and a priority for the Ugandan Ministry of Health but little is known about needs and interventions that could help to integrate such care into health systems. Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, with Adjumani District home to 250,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan, spread over 18 settlements.

Chronic disease is a huge burden to add to complex trauma, mental health challenges, loss, poverty and limited choices yet most of the focus in terms of health care remains on the acute phase and what are termed life-saving interventions.
We have partnered with Makerere, ICPCN, University of Edinburgh and CairdeasIPCT and have been able to represent our work in district, regional, national and international fora. This work has included a detailed situational analysis, training interventions for Heath Care Workers, Village Health Teams and family caregivers and a household needs assessment. We can see significant impact and now need to work to extend and scale up these crucial steps towards integrating palliative care and achieving Universal Health Coverage for those living in in humanitarian and host settings.

I am so grateful for the support from THET through DFID UK and J&J.

I am now not only a palliative care specialist, but an advocate, researcher, presenter, trainer, mentor, coach, and multi skilled person which makes me feel that I am an international figure what an amazing gift!

This post was written by:

Vicky Opia - Executive Director, Peace Hospice Adjumani, Uganda


  • Gardner Jennifer
    16 Oct 2020 06:54
    These PC skills in highest demand are core to those practiced by global PC practitioners. As humanitarian crises increase in intensity and duration, the need for trained global PC practitioners who understand how to operate in settings of resource scarcity and during humanitarian crises is clear and pressing. Recognizing the need for trained global PC practitioners, our schools designed the Global Palliative Educational Consortium (GPEC).
  • A northern Ugandan in diaspora
    04 Oct 2019 18:22
    Well done Vicky! Proud of your achievements for our people.

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