A Paediatrician at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Dr Emmanuella Amoako, has called for support for the treatment of childhood cancers to ease the financial burden on parents and guardians.
She suggested the possible adoption of children with cancers by organizations and other well-meaning individuals to reduce the burden on affected families.
Dr Amoako noted that the high cost of treatment of cancers on families left many families frustrated and unable to continue with treatment.
Defaulting treatment, she noted, could lead to disastrous consequences.
She made the call when the Coordinator for World Child Cancer, sub-Saharan Africa, Mr Emmanuel Ayire Adongo, visited the facility to ascertain the effect of the organisation’s support to some cancer patients at the hospital.
The Cape Coast Teaching Hospital
Currently, she said, 16 children were receiving treatment at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital out of the 32 children who began receiving treatment last year. “We have lost some and referred some too. Some have also defaulted due to financial constraints,” she noted.
Love Your Melon (LYM), an apparel brand with a mission to improve the lives of children with cancer, has donated $30,000 to support projects in Ghana through the World Child Cancer organisation.
Mr Adongo indicated that the support could not have come at a better time considering the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a huge toll on Ghana’s health system, with many services disrupted and healthcare staff struggling to manage the twin challenges of childhood cancer and COVID-19.
Globally, 70 per cent of cancer-related deaths will occur in Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), with 24.1 million new cases occurring by 2030 (IARC, 2019).
According to the United Nations, considering the consequential socio-economic effect of cancers, dipping the global burden was a pre-requisite for addressing the social and economic imbalances, stimulating economic growth and accelerating sustainable development.
Cancer and deaths
Childhood cancer has been identified as one of the major causes of death among children between zero and 19 years, with 300,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed each year globally.
Mr Adongo said the recent support from LYM worth $30,000 would help reduce the financial burden on patients and families, specifically helping with transportation and diagnostic costs.
That, he said, would reduce the catastrophic financial burden on patients and families, preventing those with limited means from falling further into poverty.
Mr Adongo indicated that the donation had allowed for the expansion of childhood cancer services through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with three additional health facilities, including the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH), Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) and the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, who had already started dispensing funds to families.
Other health facilities also benefiting from the LYM funds are Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
Mr Adongo said in order to improve childhood cancer management in sub-Saharan Africa, World Child Cancer was supporting the oncology unit of the child health department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to develop the first Centre of Excellence for paediatric oncology in West Africa to provide universal, accessible and locally owned cancer services.
He said the centre was currently strategically positioned to provide critical skills and improve the quality of paediatric cancer care in the sub-region and had become the regional hub of training paediatric oncologists, as well as nurses, pharmacists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and haematologists across sub-Saharan Africa.
Again, he said the centre would act as a model to demonstrate how childhood cancer could be treated successfully and cost-effectively in other comparable settings.
World Child Cancer Ghana and partners are very grateful to Love Your Melon for their generous donation which will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of children with cancer.
Mrs Ruth Koomson’s seven-year-old Ezra Hagan has been diagnosed of Leukemia Lymphoma, a type of childhood cancer. Ezra was started on chemotherapy and received three cycles of chemotherapy and achieved clinical remission but defaulted due to financial constraints.
Ezra came back later with a relapse.
His mother said they could not continue with the treatment due to financial constraints. “I hawk used clothings and there are four other children,” she said.
Dr Amoako said Ezra had been restarted on chemotherapy and seemed to be responding.
The WCC and LYM support helps her with her transportation and diagnostic expenses.
However, she indicated that treatment and diagnostic investigations for his condition would last three years at a total cost of GH₵30,000.
Dr Amoako said the support from WCC and LYM, as well as others which might hopefully come from benevolent institutions, would cushion patients like Ezra.
As the world marks childhood cancer awareness month this September, it is expected that all will support in ways huge and not so huge to help children fight cancer.
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