Hospice and palliative care development in Africa: a multi-method review of services and experiences

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Jun;33(6):698-710. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.09.033.


There is a paucity of information on hospice and palliative care provision in Africa and only a weak evidence base upon which to build policy and practice development. We set out to assess the current state of provision across the continent, mapping the existence of services country by country and exploring the perspectives and experiences of those involved. A multi-method review was conducted involving a synthesis of evidence from published and gray literature, ethnographic field visits to seven countries, qualitative interviews with 94 individuals from 14 countries, and the collation of existing public health data. Forty-seven African countries were reviewed, involving the assistance of numerous hospice and palliative care activists, including clinicians, managers, volunteers, policy makers, and staff of donor organizations. The 47 countries of Africa could be grouped into four categories: no identified hospice or palliative care activity (21 countries); capacity building activity is underway to promote hospice and palliative care delivery (11 countries); localized provision of hospice and palliative care is in place, often heavily supported by external donors (11 countries); and hospice and palliative care services are approaching some measure of integration with mainstream service providers and gaining wider policy recognition (four countries). Overall, services remain scattered and piecemeal in most African countries, and coverage is poor. Nongovernmental organizations are the predominant source of provision. Major difficulties relate to opioid availability, workforce development, and achieving sustainable critical mass. Models exist in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for the development of affordable, sustainable community-based hospice and palliative care services, but sensitivity is required in adopting Western models of hospice and palliative care for implementation in the African cultural context. Overall, interest in the development of hospice and palliative care in Africa has never been greater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*