Aicha is a nurse who works part-time in the palliative care project in Mauritania, West Africa. She visits patients in their homes, helps to train others and is a local advocate for palliative care. She also works as a dialysis nurse in the renal unit of the National Hospital. 'I have worked for Cairdeas Sahara, the Cairdeas project in Mauritania, for around one and a half years. I have learned a lot of things in this time and I now think of others as I have never done before. We, as a team, work hard to reduce the pain of patients and their families. It is a privilege to be present in people’s lives at the moments when they have need for palliative care. The relationships I have with my patients are more personal than ever before. I have learned how to relieve suffering of the patient and their family. I accompany the patients until the last moments of life, all the while striving to reduce their pain and comforting them in all ways possible. I have learned much about how to appropriately advise people to reduce them wasting their money on pointless acts concerning their health. We comfort them and teach them how to live with one another. We give a helping hand to the family when there is need. Before our involvement, they were isolated because of several factors - many of these reasons are because the others do not understand the illness and are frightened, or because of the nausea inducing smells. We re-establish the position of the patient in their family and community. This means to explain their condition according to what they want to know and in a way in which they can understand and accept. We try to teach the family how to cope in difficult situations, and sometimes just treating the smell of the wound can change their whole situation in the family.'
Mauritania is located where the Sahara desert meets the Atlantic ocean and it wasd a pirivlege to visist Dr Dave Fearon and the palliative care team earlier this year. It is a resource poor country and is four times the size of the UK, with a population of 3.5 million. As part of the partnership between Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust and the Mauritanian association ‘ASSIDE’, a recent grant from THET has facilitated palliative care training events. Twenty-five health care workers travelled from the interior of the country to the capital; the furthest distance travelled was 680 miles. Ten of these participants were selected to stay for a second week to be trained as partners. The training was interactive, with a mix of short lectures, small group work, interactive activities, role play, video recording and playback of communication skills, and visiting actual palliative patients in their homes. Here is a quote from one of those traiend '‘Before the training I thought I was good at communicating with my patients, rating myself as perhaps 9 out of 10. After watching the video recording of my role play, I realised that I was really only functioning at around 4 out of 10.’
Great work being done and we will have more information and stories from Mauritania in the future including some fascinating anthropological studies. Check out the facebook page Cairdeas Sahara.