Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kenyan Children Suffering Needlessly

Kenyan children in acute and chronic pain suffer needlessly because of government policies that restrict access to inexpensive pain medicines, a lack of investment in palliative care services, and inadequately trained health workers, according to the lobby group Human Rights Watch.

In a recent report it claims that most Kenyan children with diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medicines. Health care workers lack training in pain treatment and palliative care, and even when strong pain medicines are available, they are often reluctant to give these medicines to children.

The World Health Organization considers oral morphine an essential medicine for treating chronic pain, as does Kenya's own drug policy. A daily dose can cost as little as a few cents. Yet, the Kenyan government does not purchase oral morphine for public health facilities as it does other essential medicines. As a result, oral morphine is available in just seven of the country's 250 public hospitals.

"The Kenyan government, and donors, should be working to improve pain treatment for everyone," says Juliane Kippenberg, of HRW. "And they should make sure that the youngest and most vulnerable sufferers, sick children, are not left out. They should not be suffering needlessly." ~ Human Rights Watch, September 9

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