The Sustainable Development Goal 3 makes a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. The aim is to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and affordable medicines and vaccines for all. Supporting research and development for vaccines is an essential part of this process as well.

It also aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. It stresses that, health care is a fundamental human right and a key indicator of sustainable development. Poor health threatens the rights of children to education, limits economic opportunities for men and women and increases poverty within communities and countries around the world.

In Ghana, the pediatric oncology program is primarily financed by the Ministry of Health. Although a National Health Insurance Authority exists in Ghana, it doesn’t cover all medications and services, meaning that families must bear these costs.

Common generics like antibiotics are covered, but chemotherapy for childhood cancer, diagnostic tests such as computed tomography scans or pathology are all not covered.

At a familiarization visit to Ghana to support the World Child Cancer, A Public health lecturer at the University of West London, College of Nursing and Midwifery, Dr. Da Costa Aboagye, indicated non-communicable diseases were on the global agenda. And for Ghana as a country, there was the need to focus on how to address these, especially children with cancer.

Concerning the NHIS not covering childhood cancer medications, Dr. Aboagye said, “I think the law is explicit to some extent to give free medical care to children below the age of 18 years….so it’s a bit strange, but I stand to be corrected….. I have to find out from the NHIA why it is not covered. I don’t know, it could be an oversight. And also the most important thing is while some cancers are covered, especially adult cancers like breast cancer and others are covered, I think it will be vital for the NHIS to cover that of childhood cancer.”

After visiting the Oncology Units in both Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Dr. Da Costa, became well convinced that indeed the World Child Cancer, the management of both Hospitals, World Childhood Cancer Network, Ghana Parents Association for Childhood Cancer (GHAPACC), the Volunteers and all other supporting bodies have done well and needed massive support especially infrastructural wise.

However, he assured of his support and partnership with the World Child Cancer to fight this canker in order to achieve the SDG 3.

According to Piera Freccero, the Director of Programmes for the World Child Cancer, she noted that, World Child Cancer is a charity Organization based in the UK and they started their operations here in Ghana at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in 2010, few yeas later they extended their activities to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

She said, “what we do as a charity, we try to support the development of Paediatric Oncology Specialized Skills for Doctors and Nurses here in Ghana. We do try to provide family support with the provision of some drugs, some families we support with payment of drugs as they are very expensive, some we have to support with the payment of both drugs and diagnosis since the financial burden for them is too much and the NHIS does not cover them.”

“We have constant awareness efforts going on throughout the country to make sure the general population are aware that childhood cancer is treatable and is aware of the basics symptoms so that when they see that something is wrong with their child, they will go and seek for professional help. As the same way, we train Doctors and Nurses at the basic health care level in early warning signs and symptoms so that if they see a child that might have a childhood cancer, they know how to invite them for investigations and refer them to the right places,” Piera noted.

Key among challenges childhood cancer in Ghana she underpinned was infrastructure. According to Piera, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital together with their key partners has help them to develop a paediatric oncology unit for the children with cancer, and the last few years have shown incredible successes in terms of survival rate.

She said, “now we have average of 60% of the children with cancer treated here at Korle-Bu, will survive and thrive, which is an achievement of the country. But this is not the same at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital because they have limited space which forces the children to share space and it make disease control measures become difficult.”

Piera Freccero said, due to the limited space, the staff have limited successes. Adding that, in spite of this challenges, the work of the Doctors and Nurses have been excellent and they exhibits incredible skills in handling cases.

She mentioned that, they have been lucky in London. “We have had some conversations with some of the very important representatives of the Ghanaian Diasporans in London, one of whom is Dr. Da Costa and we also talked to Cecilia Nii, who happens to be the President of the Royal College of Nursing in London. She was actually trained in Kumasi in the 70s as a Nurse and she became the President of the Royal College of Nursing in London. We’ve been very lucky to have the support of the Ghanaian community in the UK to help the children with cancer in Ghana to have enough space at the KATH.

James King, the Chairman of the World Child Cancer, also expressed his satisfaction on the level of excellent work the Doctors and Nurses have done amidst these challenges.

Mr. King however, lauded the management of both Teaching Hospitals for their great support to the Organization, and especially the World Child Cancer Country Coordinator George Achempem and his team, for the marvelous works they have done so far.


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