Globally, incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise including cancers. And even children are not spared regarding cancer.
According to World Health Organizations’ (WHO) key facts findings as at June, 2018,
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally.
Each year, 15 million people die from a NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 85% of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.0 million), respiratory diseases (3.9million), and diabetes (1.6 million).
These 4 groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths. Detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors.
The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCD deaths – 32million – occur.
The fact indicates, NCD deaths are projected to increase by 15% globally between 2010 and 2020. The greatest increases will be in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, and South-East Asia, where they will increase by over 20%.
However, in many developing counties like Ghana, the detection rate with regards to childhood cancers are extremely low, except in countries where lots of investments have been made in advocacy, public education and policies that motivate the general public to pay attention to emerging health concerns.
Records on the number of children diagnosed with cancer in Ghana each year is higher, with 2016 recording (310) cases which indicates the highest number. That is the same year, childhood cancer awareness campaign and advocacy was at its highest crescendo.
As we begin another month-long childhood cancer awareness campaign from (01- 30 September 2018); it is worth noting the intensified information sharing and advocacy efforts via WhatsApp, Radio, TV, Online (Internet), print newspapers, and more recently health screening exercises are yielding some results.
The face-to-face public education at schools, Churches, professional group meetings and other social gatherings served another useful two-way interaction process where parents sought clarity on some of the myths surrounding cancer, especially cancer in children.
There is no doubt that professional and public awareness about childhood cancer is increasing, no matter how negligible it may seem. The credit goes to the parents and volunteers, healthcare staff and the media; the Churches that offered the platforms for advocacy and further donated to support treatment.
The sympathisers, donors and the pharmaceutical firms that supported the children also deserve commendation. The journalist who have dedicated your efforts providing free consultancy and those of you helping with compilation of our commutation tools – all deserve special mention. Meanwhile, the real task lie ahead.
Notwithstanding, the humble progress; a quarter (25 percent) of the 1300 children estimated to developed cancer annually are diagnosed. This leaves an unacceptable three-quarters of the children likely to develop cancer without access to specialist oncology care, including palliative care; hence, at risk of dying a painful death.
September 2018 is significant, as it marks another phase of childhood cancer interventions in Ghana. Key activities in the month include;
1. Daily childhood cancer awareness short messaging,
2. September 09: Launch of a foundation at the Department of Child Heath, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital; mainly to sponsor childhood cancer treatment,
3. 22 September: Blood donation and childhood cancer screening exercise at Achimota Mall, in partnership with Living Dreams Foundation & the National Blood Bank,
4. September 25: Project Launch: Transforming the lives of children with cancer in Ghana at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, Accra; donor: the UK Government through DFID,
5. September 29: Blood donation and childhood cancer screening exercise at Accra Mall, in partnership with Living Dreams Leukemia Foundation & the National Blood Bank,
6. TBD: Blood donation and childhood cancer screening exercise at Kumasi Mall, in partnership with Paediatric Oncology Unit, & KATH Blood Bank.
The launch of the DFID II marks the beginning of another ambitious phase of World Child Cancer project implementation in Ghana where at least 400 children are targeted for diagnosis annually.
More questions regarding funding and workload on healthcare staff caring for children with cancer will come up. That is why supporting the training of more personnel remains a priority.
We hold the believe that, the only sustainable way forward for childhood cancer treatment funding remains the responsibility of governments. The advocacy and lobbying will continue until the right thing is done.
The cooperation on the part of government of Ghana so far is encouraging. However, time is of essence. Each passing day without the approval of childhood cancer treatment funding for coverage by the national health financing scheme portrays the government as glossing over the plight of the vulnerable and the poor in society.
Childhood cancer treatment funding is not only a moral issue but the a right for which we look forward to the President, as a human rights lawyer, to pay attention to. For how long will the rights and pains of children with cancer in Ghana continue to be ignored?
If all the children in Ghana can benefit from the Free Senior High School Education, then the lives of these few vulnerable ones need to be saved now. Otherwise Ghana is discriminating against some of the future leaders, simply because they are diagnosed of cancer. If they had a choice, the families and the children would have wished cancer never visited them.
But they had no choice. Its one of the things in life that just happen. That is why we must continue to act and advocate such that “NO CHILD SHOULD SUFFER!”
By: George Achempim
World Child Cancer – Ghana.