Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Durban - More than 800 000 babies, children and adolescents in South Africa have an illness or condition that is likely to shorten their lives.

About 304 441 of those children need specialised palliative care services as a result of a terminal diagnosis, such as genetic conditions, cancer, HIV and Aids, kidney failure and diseases of the heart and lungs.

However, only 14 501 children (4.76%), and mainly those close to the end of their lives, are receiving the services they need.

Palliative care ensures a good quality of life and minimises pain and suffering.

In KwaZulu-Natal, this means that 158 629 children are in need of generalised palliative care with 60 280 needing specialist care.

But only 7 550 children are receiving the palliative care they need.

These are some of the startling facts that will be discussed at the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) conference starting today at Durban’s Elangeni Hotel. The event ends on Sunday.

While the South African statistics were not as good as those of the UK or Australia, they are better than other parts of southern Africa, Professor Julia Downing, chief executive officer of the ICPCN, said yesterday.

The good news, however, was that the South African government had approved a policy of palliative care for children and adults, “meaning that the government is committed to extending access to services”, she said.

The policy will help South Africa integrate palliative care into all the levels of the health-care system.

The policy document is currently being edited and the National Department of Health should have it available online by the end of next month.

This welcome development will come under the spotlight at the conference, which aims to make a vital contribution to building a lasting legacy of informed health care and other professionals who are empowered with the knowledge and skills to further develop children’s palliative care in KZN and the country.

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