Article Abstract

Palliative care in Botswana: current state and challenges to further development

Authors: Anna W. LaVigne, Babe Gaolebale, Goitseone Maifale-Mburu, Surbhi Grover


Background: A rising tide of cancers and other chronic diseases, alongside the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, has created an increasing demand for palliative care in Africa. Yet, few African nations have established effective palliative care programs. In Botswana, the escalating HIV/AIDS crisis revealed an unmet need for holistic care, prompting efforts to expand palliative care education and policy, and target curricular and health system integration in the years that followed. Despite numerous successes, Botswana continues to face barriers to palliative care development. In this paper, we examine the country’s current state of palliative care and the challenges it must still overcome.
Methods: Data was collected from June to July of 2015, and includes interviews of physicians, nurses and hospice staff.
Results: Palliative care delivery in Botswana is primarily concentrated in the south, where the country’s first palliative care clinic and three hospices are located. While 157 health care workers, students and lecturers received palliative care training from 2013 to 2014, 100% of participants felt that education remains a significant obstacle for palliative care expansion. Sixty-four percent commented on the need for increased palliative care understanding and awareness, while 91% noted the difficulty of achieving adequate access to pain medication.
Conclusions: Several targets were identified that have persistently hampered efforts to advance palliative care in Botswana, including: infrastructural challenges such as access to pain medications, the strained size of the palliative care workforce, and a need for increased palliative care education and understanding. However, recent achievements in national strategy and policy offer promising avenues for moving past these historical barriers. With implementation of action plans already underway, Botswana may ultimately provide a model for successful palliative care implementation in continuing to strengthen palliative care services throughout the country.