According to Dr. Dolendo, cancer is a rare disease among children, occurring in only 1 of 5,000 children every year. Childhood cancers are usually embryonal or deep-seated and aggressive while adult cancers are epithelial in origin and can be slow growing. Epithelial tissue, which is made up of cells closely packed and range in one or more layers, covers the whole surface of the human body.

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, says, “cancers in children tend to be much curable.” The overall outlook for children with cancer has improved greatly over the last half-century.

The U.S National Cancer Institute (NCI), also notes that, in 1975, just over 50 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least five years. In 2004 to 2010 more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least five years.

Baldrick’s Foundation also says, Childhood cancer isn’t just one disease. There are over a dozen types of childhood cancer and countless subtypes, each requiring specific research to develop the best treatment for every child.

The most common cancers of children are leukemia, brain and other central nervous system tumors, neuroblastoma (a cancer that grows in parts of the nervous system), Wilms’ tumor (a specific kind of cancer of the kidneys), lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin), rhabdomyosarcoma (the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children), retinoblastoma (a cancer of the retina, the light-sensing area at the back of the eye) and bone cancer (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma).

Unlike adult cancers, childhood cancers are not given much prominence. In the wake of this, World Child Cancer has been implementing a health system strengthening project in Ghana to improve the care for children in cancers in the country since 2010.

Aside from training healthcare professionals in the management of cancer, they also support diagnostics and treatment of children at both Korle-Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals.

The organisation is however exploring more sustainable health care financing for children with cancer as the donor funding will run out at a point.

Following this, a team from the World Child Cancer made up of Piera Freccero, the Head of Programmes, George Achempim, Country Representative; and Dr. Da Costa Aboagye, a member of the Ghanaian diaspora community in the UK, paid a courtesy visit on Hon. Fremah Opare, the Chief of Staff at the Presidency on 2nd August, 2018, as part of their official working visit to Ghana.

Discussions with the Chief of Staff was centred on the possibility of state funding of childhood cancer under the Ghana’s Health Financing Scheme, the NHIS.

Speaking, Piera Freccero explained that, ‘’Though about 1300 children will develop cancer, each year, only about 350 are diagnosed annually, and most of them are likely to abandon treatment since their families are unable to pay for the cost of treatment, hence the need for the state to fund childhood cancer treatment, if the rights of these children to access healthcare are to be protected.”

Underpinning the commonest childhood cancers in Ghana to the Chief of Staff,
the country representative of world childhood cancers, Mr. George Achempim said; the top four childhood cancers in Ghana were; eye cancer, blood cancer, kidney cancers and Burkitt’s Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).

According to Mr. Achempim ‘’Given that about nine of the generic medications needed for childhood treatment are already on the Essential Medicines List covered by the NHIS for the treatment of breast and cervical cancers, approving for the four common childhood cancers (cancer of the blood, eyes, kidney and lymphatic system), will not necessarily warrant any substantial additional cost to the state health financing scheme.”

Dr. Da Costa Aboagye, reiterated that, the World Health Organisation has prioritized non-communicable diseases, especially cancer and child health in general; so, Ghana’s inability to fund childhood cancer treatment is not only a moral issue but a breach of the fundamental human rights of the children.

On her part, Hon. Fremah Opare, commended World Child Cancer for the Partnership with the country to improve paediatric oncology services. She assured that Government will continue to investigate the issues of childhood cancer treatment and ensure that all Ghanaian children receive the best of social services including healthcare, education and the protection needed for growth and development of all children in the country.

She however, donated bars of golden tree chocolate to the team, which indicates a clear sign of the Ghanaian hospitality.

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