By Beryl Kendo.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital diagnoses one to two new paediatric cancer cases each day, with about four to six of these cases receiving chemotherapy treatment daily.
In a bid to secure the lives of children and pay special attention to paediatric cancer, JOOTRH under the umbrella of Kisumu County, Department of Medical Services, Public Health and Sanitation is looking into modalities of entering into a partnership with Gertrude’s Foundation.
The management of JOOTRH held a review forum with Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation together with officers from the Department of Medical Services, Public Health, and Sanitation,
The meeting, geared towards establishing sustainable collaboration between the County Government of Kisumu, Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation, and JOOTRH for better paediatric health services, is a step towards ensuring that the health of children at the Obama Children Centre, specifically those born or living with cancer is kept a priority.
Present in the delegation was County Executive Member for Medical Services, Public Health, and Sanitation Dr. Greggory Ganda accompanied by Dr. Ojwang Lusi, Chief Officer, Department of Medical Services, Public health and Sanitation.
Paediatric cancer is a term used to describe cancers that occur between birth and 14 years of age. Pediatric cancers are very rare and may differ from adult cancers in the way they grow and spread, how they are treated, and how they respond to treatment. The most common types of pediatric cancer are leukemia, brain, and spinal cord tumors, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor (a type of kidney cancer), retinoblastoma, and cancers of the bone and soft tissue. Also called childhood cancer.
In Kenya, the most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia followed by retinoblastoma (eye cancer) and Wilms Tumour (kidney cancer). Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
“We have been stretching our wings to offer cancer care to all the children affected in terms of treatment and this has proven to be a burden due to the lack of adequate drugs,” says Dr. Ojigo, Head paediatrician at Obama Children Centre, JOOTRH.
The Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation, represented by the foundation manager Dr. Carol Waweru, program manager Olivia Achieng, and Dr. Kabera Beatrice who is the chief pathologist, highlighted their programs, goals, and achievements in creating awareness of childhood cancers.
The foundation began in 2018 and has been at the forefront of advocating for and aiding in the treatment of pediatric cancers. In partnership with Gertrude’s Hospital, National Cancer Institute and Kenya Childhood Cancer Trust have been so far successful in funding the treatment of pediatric cancer in children and patients with an age limit of 21 years.
Its goal is to create awareness of the treatment of childhood cancers and provides a fairly affordable package by subsidizing the cost of treatment by about 500,000 shillings. It’s an income tax-exempted/ charity organization that caters to about 3000 patients from slum areas per month.
Gertrude’s Hospital,75, is a hospital that has been taking care of children comprehensively, especially in matters of pediatric cancers, and has used the foundation to deepen its roots while creating awareness of child health and related issues including childhood cancer.
Gertrude’s foundation’s measures to curb childhood cancer include training health workers on pediatric care through Continuing Medical Education, creation of online systems for case prevention and management, facilitation of testing and diagnosis of childhood cancers for treatment and management, providing cost treatment subsidies, creation of awareness on childhood cancers, signs, treatment, and diagnosis.
These initiatives if incorporated into the JOOTRH system will go a long way in ensuring that paediatric cancer is a forgotten case.
The initiative has been able to successfully carry out its projects with the aid of funding from charitable events i.e., golf tournaments carried out per year and through dedicated donors. JOOTRH is therefore honored to be part of the beneficiary system and would ensure that through collaboration, sustainable cancer treatment programs are enacted to provide a second chance to live for children.
While carrying out its activities, the foundation has noted the problems of early diagnosis of childhood cancers and lack of prioritization of the ailments as just the tip of the ice bag regarding treatment.
Lack of knowledge of diagnosis by laboratory technicians has made treatment an issue, some children with cancer cases end up being treated for other illnesses other than cancer, making it hard to treat them when diagnosed at a later stage.
The lack of prioritization of collected samples by most health facilities was noted by the foundation to also be an issue. The samples are collected but diagnosis takes a lot of time, hence increasing childhood cancers related mortality.
JOOTRH recognizes that children are a light towards the future and jeopardizing their lives would mean jeopardizing the future. It is in this mindset that the hospital embraces the partnership and looks forward to working for a better future for children.