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Where is Living Room working? Living Room works in a mostly rural area surrounding the village of Kipkaren, which is in western Kenya, about thirty miles west of Eldoret and 50 miles east of the nation of Uganda. Kipkaren is approximately 215 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Who are the people? Kenya was a British colony until it gained independence from Great Britain in 1963. Now a republic of East Africa, Kenya is home to more than 40 different ethnic groups. Living Room’s staff and patients represent many cultures and languages. The care within Kimbilio Hospice, as well in the community, must be personalized to meet the needs of the individual and family.

Why palliative care? In 2010, the Human Rights Watch released a report entitled Needless Pain: Government Failure to Provide Palliative Care for Children in Kenya.  The report exposed, what is already well known to us on the ground, that Kenyan children and adults with diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medication.   Julianne Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch said: “Kenyan children with cancer or AIDS are living, and dying, in horrible agony. Pain medicines are cheap, safe, and effective, and the government should make sure that children who need them get them.”

A daily dose of oral morphine can cost as little as a few cents, but the Kenyan government does not procure oral morphine for public health facilities as it does other essential medicines. Therefore, morphine is available in only seven of Kenya’s approximately 250 public hospitals. Of the more than 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS, 150,000 are children. While 250,000 people in Kenya are on anti-HIV treatment, this report showed that “all the morphine in the country can treat pain in only 1,500 terminal cancer or AIDS patients.”

Kippenberg writes, “The Kenyan government, and donors, should be working to improve pain treatment for everyone, and they should make sure that the youngest and most vulnerable sufferers, sick children, are not left out. They should not be suffering needlessly.” Through advocacy and direct patient care, Living Room is working to be a part of the solution to relieving this needless pain.