Today, February 4th, is World Cancer Day. All around the world people and organizations are marking the occasion by raising awareness and funds to combat what remains one of the leading causes of death. Human Concern International has been active in this universal cause. Recently, we encouraged breast cancer screening for women in Gaza in co-operation with the Aid and Hope Centre for the Care of Cancer Patients. Early detection of breast cancer is the key to effective treatment, and reduced fatalities. Now, we are continuing our effort by supporting Egypt’s largest and most effective children’s cancer hospital, The Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (57357). Please join us, and the countless others, who are working towards a future without cancer.
Cancer kills 7.9 million people every year, and is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1-14 worldwide. Tragically, many of these deaths are entirely preventable. In the developed world, the advent of new treatments has seen cancer survival rates steadily climb, but, as with so many other things, these treatments are not available in much of the developing world. The result is that children in Egypt, for example, are twice as likely to die from cancer as children in North America. One cannot imagine the pain families must endure when their child is lost simply because he or she did not have access to adequate medical care.
In Egypt, a country of 81.5 million people, only 350 hospital beds are dedicated to treating child cancer patients, and no more than 100 physicians have received pediatric oncology or hematology training. It is one of many nations which do not devote enough funds to pediatric oncology out of the misguided belief that it is prohibitively expensive, and resources would have a greater effect elsewhere. This simply is not the case, as a recent study by St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital has demonstrated that even a small increase in funding can dramatically improve survival rates. Prevention and early diagnosis programs are highly cost effective, and do not require advanced technologies. Despite the evidence, the World Health Organization does not have any program in place to correct the huge disparities in cancer survival rates worldwide. The result: children in the countries like Egypt continue to die unnecessarily.
Psycho-social support for child cancer patients, and their families, is particularly lacking in Egypt. It is considered merely as an afterthought, if at all, and families must often face the emotional challenges of cancer without professional support. Adding to this is the stress resulting from poverty, and the daily struggle to gather adequate funds to pay for treatment. Many families simply cannot bear the emotional or financial burden, and as a result they abandon cancer treatment programs for their children prematurely.
The Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (57357) has taken it upon itself to correct the imbalance, and ensure that even the poorest children of Egypt have access to the same life saving treatments and support as their more fortunate counterparts. Operating since July 7, 2007, it is now the largest pediatric oncology centre in the Middle East and Africa. Its facilities include Egypt’s first specialized department of physiology, social work, and psychiatry for pediatric oncology. Creating a single hospital devoted to pediatric oncology has enormous benefits. The hospital staff is both highly trained and highly motivated. It has created a nucleus for training new physicians, carries out groundbreaking research, and provides top level treatment. By collaborating with experts worldwide, the hospital is able to integrate the most advanced medical knowledge into its treatment of patients.
The hospital has recognized the need not only for state of the art medical care, but also for a more comprehensive approach. As such, it has inaugurated the country’s first school program for hospitalized children, to ensure that they will be given the chance to succeed once they have completed their treatment. It provides support to families as they struggle to cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis for their child. Hospital staff work with the community to raise awareness about cancer screening, and early detection, as a way to improve survival rates, and save the lives of countless children.
CCHE serves all Egyptians, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or ability to pay. All treatments and medications are provided free of charge if a family lacks sufficient financial means. Also, economic support is given to families who must often travel long distances to visit their children undergoing treatment, and who would otherwise be unable to afford the journey. Housing and job opportunities are provided when necessary. All of this means that now less than one percent of patients abandon treatment, whereas economic hardship previously caused almost 16 percent to not finish their programs. The hospital is a model which should be followed throughout the Middle East, and the world.
Human Concern International, in recognition of the hospital’s achievements and vision, has provided them significant financial support. The hospital is committed to sustainability, and we can be certain that no dollar will be wasted. It is money that will be used to help the hospital to expand, bringing its life-saving treatment, education, and message to ever larger numbers. We wish the hospital the best of luck, and are privileged to aid such a worthy program. We are certain that they will continue to provide high quality care to all those who need it for years to come.