Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is palliative care?

The WHO defines palliative care as the prevention and relief of suffering for adults and children and their families facing the challenges associated with life-threatening illness (1). Palliative care seeks to address, not only physical problems, but also psychological, social, and spiritual concerns, through early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of these problems.

Is palliative care needed in disasters, armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies?

There is increasing recognition of the importance of integrating palliative care into humanitarian situations. A recent Lancet Commission report on pain relief and palliative care recognized palliative care as “an essential component of any response to humanitarian emergencies and crises”(2). The goal of humanitarian healthcare is not simply to save lives but also to alleviate suffering, and more emphasis on addressing suffering is needed, as the primary focus of humanitarian aid remains on efforts simply and solely focused on saving lives.

Joan Marston, chair of the PallCHASE executive committee, discusses how PallCHASE developed out of a recognition of the need for palliative care in humanitarian settings in this video from 2017.

What is known about the palliative care needs of those affected by humanitarian emergencies?

In 2017, PallCHASE partnered with Fasiuddin Khan Research Foundation (FKRF) and World Child Cancer in Bangladesh to conduct a Rapid Situational Analysis of the need for palliative care in the Rohingya refugee response. The study aimed to assess the burden of illness-related suffering and the need for palliative care for Rohingya refugees and their caregivers. This study incorporated trained Rohingya community members to interview patients and caregivers. The findings were published in an advocacy report, Neglected Suffering: The Unmet need for Palliative Care in Cox’s Bazar. The research findings were published in PLOS Medicine in 2020.


What are the barriers to implementing palliative care in humanitarian situations?

There are many challenges to implementing palliative care in all settings, which include education, awareness, opioid policy and , these are shown in the image below. In addition to these considerations, the Humanitarian Health Ethics Group, identified a number of barriers specific to the humanitarian sector, including funding, expert guidance, cultural specificity, terminology, security, host-community relations and priority setting. Further details of these are shown in the image below.


Further details about the barriers are discussed here.