Commemoration of International Childhood Cancer Day - Awareness on childhood cancer crucial
International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) is a global collaborative campaign celebrated every year on February 15.
It is celebrated to raise awareness of children and adolescents with cancer, survivors and their families.
This year marks the last year of the three-year campaign which was launched in 2020.
The survival of children in low and middle-income countries is about 20 per cent while it is about 80 per cent in high-income countries.
It is for this reason that awareness raising of childhood cancer is crucial.
The aim is to inform key stakeholders about the current situation and the need to support this neglected condition of public health concern.
This will save families and children from the devastating effects of childhood cancer and its impact on the socioeconomic status of families.
In Ghana, there are now three major childhood cancer treatment centres: Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and Greater Accra Regional Hospital (GARH).
There are other centres that provide some form of treatment for childhood cancer, and these include Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH), Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH), Ho Teaching Hospital (HTH), Agogo Presbyterian Hospital (APH), Holy Family Hospital, Techiman, and Kumasi South Regional Hospital.
The Bolgatanga and Wa Regional hospitals are currently being considered for support to also establish a treatment centre each with some of their staff receiving some capacity building.
The theme for the 2023 ICCD is: ‘Better Survival’ is achievable #throughtheirhands, where the focus is on paying tribute to the families and caregivers and the positive impact they have on the lives of children and adolescents with cancer.
World Child Cancer
World Child Cancer is a registered charity in UK and Ghana with a vision of having a world where every child with cancer has equal access to the best treatment and care.
World Child Cancer has been in Ghana for 11 years, and has been supporting Ghana in the management of childhood cancers.
As a key partner of the World Health Organisation’s Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), World Child Cancer focuses on building a centre of excellence at KBTH for the management of childhood cancer in the sub region and as a training hub for the sub-region and beyond.
The centres providing care for children with cancer in Ghana have made incredible progress in the last decade, proving that childhood cancer is curable if treated early.
World Child Cancer and many other allies provide extra support for families of children with cancer that undergo treatment in Ghana, making their journey less burdensome.
Tree of Life
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and stakeholders have selected the Tree of Life – a universal symbol of growth and renewal, to send a powerful message that childhood cancer can be cured, and the well-being of survivors achieved, if all stakeholders continue acting resolutely together.
The three-year campaign is fully aligned with the #CureAll strategy of the breakthrough GICC.
Launched in 2018, the GICC is an unprecedented multi-stakeholder global effort spotlighting childhood cancer as a major priority of the international child health and development agenda.
According to WHO, cancer management requires a skilled, multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals.
This results in the effective use of technology for the management of childhood cancers and early diagnostic and treatment of patients, leading to better treatment outcomes.
Such a team is necessary to support Universal Health Coverage to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal Three and to reach every child with cancer.
NHIS and childhood cancer
The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, officially announced the absorption of childhood cancer into the NHIS benefit package at the Accra International Conference Centre in 2021.
The landmark deal covers the diagnosis and treatment of four childhood cancers, comprising acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Burkitt lymphoma, Retinoblastoma and Wilms tumour.
These four constitute approximately 60 percent of all Childhood Cancers and are highly curable if detected early.
Though this has been a great initiative to improve on financial risk, protection of children and families as part of Ghana’s Universal Health Coverage roadmap, two years on the effect of this policy announcement is yet to be realised.
We are calling on all key stakeholders responsible for the full implementation of this policy to do what is needed to ensure that the policy is implemented to the letter to ensure that the target beneficiaries begin to benefit from the policy to reduce the financial hardship faced by families with children and adolescents with cancer.
This year several stakeholders have joined hands to commemorate International Childhood Cancer Day, and these include WHO, World Child Cancer, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Lifeline for Childhood Cancer, Ghana, City Cancer Challenge, Childhood Cancer Society of Ghana, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Rotary Club International, Childhood Cancer Society of Ghana, and Rotary Club International.
Several awareness and advocacy programmes have been planned for this year’s commemoration and we urge all and sundry to join us in the celebration to ensure that we give a golden opportunity to children and adolescents to live to realise their full potential.
The writer is the Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa World Child Cancer