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Abstract

There is a tragic reality—one that only grows as the number of displaced people surpasses the appalling milestone of 100-million reached in May 2022—that some refugees residing in camps will face life-threatening conditions and even die far removed from people and places of comfort. Such a prospect can exacerbate the suffering already experienced by the ill or injured. With its aim of relieving suffering, palliative care has been the focus of recent academic and aid sector research and dialogue. This presentation includes an overview of findings (narrative and visual) from a study on moral and practical dimensions of palliative care in two refugee camps in Rwanda.

A particular focus will be on a refugee-led initiative that provides essential palliative support in one of the camps. The initiative offers fundamentals in the form of accompaniment and respite care to ensure human dignity is upheld and allowing specialist care providers to focus on more complex needs. The opportunities inherent in this initiative cannot be ignored, but neither can the ethical aspects of its inclusion in refugee healthcare.

If palliative care is aimed at the relief of suffering, to what degree can that be achieved in the austere environment of refugee camps with the aid of community-based support? To that end, what are the experiences and needs of patients and care providers? What are the moral and practical dimensions of relying on local community members who—though generously offering their time and abilities—may themselves be traumatized by their situation? These and other questions will form the basis of general discussion on sustainable and relevant palliative care for refugees in a current context in which host nations and international agencies work towards durable solutions to displacement.

 

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