Addressing palliative care needs during emergencies

2019 June 21

Following the worst flood in a century that ravaged Kerala in August 2018, killing 500 people and displacing more than a million, two thoughts remain paramount. One was the intensity of suffering. The other, intense pride on how the common man reacted, tens of thousands working shoulder to shoulder with the government machinery, fire forces and armed forces. The people of Kerala demonstrated true heroism.

Looking back, for us in palliative care, the predominant thought was the magnitude of suffering of those with palliative care needs. When people were evacuated, many lost medicines and physical aids which were essential for their very existence. For the differently-abled, including the elderly, rescue was often delayed and even after rescue, their suffering was intense. Let us certainly hope that a disaster of that magnitude does not happen again. However, even if humanitarian crises of smaller magnitude happen, the palliative care network has to be ready. People with palliative care needs do require special services.

Pallium India and Indian Association of Palliative Care (Kerala) joined hands with Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) to conduct a one-day consultation on “Addressing the needs of the Elderly and People under Palliative Care in Disaster Related Emergencies,” involving as many palliative care organizations and NGOs that work in the field of elderly care in Kerala as possible. The expected participation was 50; but 85 people registered.

We now are ready to create an action plan and to conduct training programs. Even in small towns or villages, a major road traffic accident or a similar calamity would find us better prepared, we hope. We thank Mr Sekhar Kuriakose and team at KSDMA for allowing us to work with them.

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