The need: Childhood cancer in the developing world
Over 300,000 children worldwide develop cancer each year. If the illness is detected early enough, many of these children can be cured - 80% of children with cancer in the developed world survive. However, in developing countries, survival rates can be as low as 10%. Furthermore, many children are dying without effective pain relief.
The sad reality is that many children remain undiagnosed due to a shortage of trained doctors and nurses. Worse still, many children with curable cancers die because their illness is diagnosed too late. Those families whose children are diagnosed, often have to travel huge distances – at great expense – to reach the hospital and, with little or no national health services, the cost of drugs is prohibitive for many. Even those children who start treatment may be forced to abandon it mid-way through as limited funds disappear and parents have no option but to return to work in order to support the whole family. Money for accommodation is commonly non-existent, so parents find themselves sharing their child's hospital bed, sleeping in the hospital corridor or even sleeping in the car park.
World Child Cancer believes inequality in cancer treatment should not exist and that every child, regardless of where they live, should receive the very best possible treatment and care and be able to realise their ambitions and dreams.
World Child Cancer improves diagnosis, treatment and support for children with cancer, and their families, in the developing world. We achieve this via our twinning partnerships between hospitals and healthcare professionals in the developing world and those in the developed world. These partnerships, together with staff training and mentoring, provide valuable expertise which builds the capacity and knowledge of doctors and nurses in-country. We also support treatment costs for the lowest income families, provide ward equipment, fund essential staff posts and, more recently, have started providing holistic care for children and their families. In order to affect long term change, we also deliver awareness-raising campaigns and liaise with civil society, both in-country and in the UK, to persuade governments to invest more resources into childhood cancer services.
We currently support children with cancer in Africa, Asia and Central America. We deliver nine programmes of work across 16 countries - Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Myanmar and the Philippines. We also support a collaborative Wilms' tumour project in sub-Saharan Africa (including Ethiopia and Zimbabwe) and a regional partnership in Central America.
In the countries where we work, we are currently helping to diagnose, treat and support between 10% and 20% of all children with cancer; children who, before our intervention, were commonly overlooked. However, we know there are many more children and families in need of our support. For the immediate future, we therefore aim to increase our impact in the countries in which we currently operate.
We also recognise we can’t cure all children with cancer and so will be focusing on delivering palliative and holistic care for children and their families. This will ensure fewer children are dying in pain due to a lack of access to appropriate medication and that their families are supported from the time of diagnosis. This is a model which is commonplace in the UK, thanks to our active hospice movement, but which is currently rare in the developing world where pain medicines are tightly controlled, if available at all.
Our ultimate aim is to reach all children with cancer in the developing world.
World Child Cancer in a nutshell
Our vision is a world where every child with cancer has equal access to the best treatment and care.
Our mission is to improve diagnosis, treatment and support for children with cancer, and their families, in the developing world.
World Child Cancer supports the diagnosis, treatment and support of children with cancer in the developing world and their families. We achieve this via our twinning partnerships between hospitals in the developing world and those in the developed world. These partnerships, together with staff training and mentoring, provide valuable expertise which builds the sustainable capacity and knowledge of doctors and nurses in-country. We also provide holistic care for families, support treatment costs, provide ward equipment and fund essential staff posts. In order to affect long term change, we also deliver awareness-raising programmes and liaise with policy-makers at home and abroad.
A Case Study: David
David was 11 years old when a growing tumour forced him to make the 24-hour journey to one of World Child Cancer’s centres in Cameroon. When he reached Mbingo Baptist Hospital, David was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that primarily affects children.
Tumours like David’s grow very rapidly, often doubling their mass in 24 to 48 hours. Fortunately, on the whole, they respond very well to treatment. After five days and a single dose of chemotherapy, David’s tumour shrank to half its size.
David’s mother responded to the news of her child’s ‘recovery’ by telling the team they were going home before receiving the whole course of treatment planned. This is a common attitude among parents when they see their child’s visual symptoms disappear and they face the financial burden of being away from home and work.
All David needed was to complete a full treatment cycle which is normally just four weeks in duration. By covering the treatment and transport costs of the poorest families and providing the medical expertise they need, World Child Cancer aims to see more children complete their treatment cycle and make a full recovery.