First Lady Leads Child Cancer Campaign

First lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo being assited by and the acting CEO KBTH, Dr. Samuel Asiamah, to break the ground for the construction of the hostel

First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo yesterday broke grounds for the construction of a 30-bed hostel for childhood cancer patients and their parents at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH).

The hostel which includes a counselling and support office, projected to cost GH¢2million, is aimed at solving the lack of suitable accommodation most parents who travel from afar face during the treatment of their children at the health facility.

Earlier at a ceremony which coincided with the 2017 International Childhood Cancer Day at Korle-Bu, the Ag Chief Executive Officer of Korle-Bu, Dr Samuel Asiamah, conferred on the first lady who was a guest of honour, the role of cancer childhood ambassador.

The first Lady further accepted the offer of being an ambassador for childhood cancer, assuring the gathering of her commitment to the realisation of initiatives that will improve the health of children.

Mrs Akufo-Addo, addressing health professionals and parents of children with childhood cancers, congratulated the Ghana Association of Parents Against Childhood Cancers (GHAPACC) for initiating the project, which Korle-Bu had allocated part of its land.

She said the shift in the cause of diseases has led to the recognition of non-communicable diseases (such as cancer) as important causes of childhood illness and death.

“This may also be a reason why about 30 percent of the expected number of 1,000 children attend the two treatment facilities in Accra and Kumasi each year,” she said.

The first lady, however, mentioned the lack of accommodation as a challenge to the successful treatment of patients, indicating that the new hostel would reduce the number of parents who abandon the treatment of their children due to accommodation challenges.

She urged the management of KBTH to go a step further to consider access to well-balanced diets for the children and their families, as well as have teachers assigned to the children in the hostel so they do not miss out on their education.

Prof Lorna Awo Renner, Head of the Paediatric Oncology Unit of Korle-Bu Child Health Department, said while childhood mortality due to infectious diseases has been significantly reduced worldwide, deaths due to childhood cancer are increasing.

“Too many children and adolescents still die of cancer worldwide … One child dies of cancer every three minutes worldwide,” she said.

Prof Renner stated that although more than 75 percent of childhood cancers is curable with modern therapy, survival rates are as low as 20 percent in low and middle income countries.

“Lack of information about early signs and symptoms of childhood cancer, late diagnosis, misdiagnosis, absence/weak healthcare system and abandonment of treatment are reasons for the significant inequality,” she said.

Prof Renner, thus, advocated greater investment in cancer treatment programmes as statistics show such investment is highly cost effective.

“We need our leaders to be accountable, to take bold and decisive steps to address the need of kids with cancer, survivors and their families,” she pointed out.

Dr Kwame Aveh, President of GHAPACC, justifying the need for a hostel said about 80 percent of childhood cancer patients seen at Korle-Bu are referred from facilities outside Accra.

He said Korle-Bu has only two small six bedded rooms for 12 mother-child pairs on each bed at the Mother’s Hotel.

Dr Aveh said the association found out that about 30 percent of parents who start treatment for their children abandon it after a few visits.

He added that GHAPACC, noticing the challenge, decided to appeal for funds for the construction of the new hostel to reduce travel cost and untimely cessation of treatment by families.

“There is very little was can do so we are calling on all to support us financially,” he said.

The association plans to build the next hostel at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

International Childhood Cancer Day

International Childhood Cancer Day is marked on February15 to highlight the need for concerted global actions to address the growing challenge posed by this non-communicable disease.

Themed ‘Better Access To Care For Children & Adolescent With Cancer Everywhere’, the commemoration this year puts the spotlight on the inequalities and glaring disparity of access to care in most low and middle-income countries, where 80 percent of children live with cancer live.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri