In 2014, the Islamic Relief global family pledged R150 million towards establishing a state-of-the-art oncology unit at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg. With the hospital set to open in December, Head of Programmes for Islamic Relief South Africa, Norman Moyo, looks at some of the challenges faced by child cancer patients to access quality treatment in South Africa.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that approximately 6.3 million children died in Africa in 2013. Two thirds of these deaths were attributed to preventable causes such as pneumonia, malaria and diahhroea. In the case of cancer, it remains an important non-communicable cause of death in children.
According to the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), treating cancer in Africa has been problematic as it remains a “largely unknown” disease. The study states that there is a lack of reliable statistical data availabel which could influence health policies. It also found that data available were focused on more urban areas and did not always include the rural areas where most cases go unreported
Due to the high levels of poverty and the lack of equipped healthcare facililities in less developed countries, diagnosis of cancer often takes place too late or the patient is forced to seek medical assiatnce from primary healthcare facilities that lack the sophisticated imaging equipment and trained staff, especially pathologists.
Islamic Relief Oncology Centre of Excellence – NMCH
Childhood cancer is on the rise in Southern Africa. According to recent figures from the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation, one in 600 children in South Africa is affected by cancer before the age of 16. South Africa is also the only country on the continent that has a designated tumour registry, coordinated by the South African Children’s Cancer Study Group (SACCSG).
However, more than 40 percent of South African children with cancer never reach a specialist treatment, because there are only four specialist children’s hospitals on the African continent, compared to about 20 in the UK. The state-of-the-art Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) will help change these grim statistics.
Set to open in 2016, NMCH is Nelson Mandela’s lasting wish for the children of Africa. Situated in Johannesburg, the hospital will set the bar for modern, child-centred healthcare and primary health care facilities in Africa.
Providing cutting-edge paediatric services, the Islamic Relief Oncology Centre of Excellence will deliver specialist care for child cancer patients. The unit will include a bone marrow transplant facility, laboratory, theatres for tumour surgery, intensive care and high care beds, a dedicated pharmacy and a radiology facility.
As a major donor, the humanitarian and relief organisation is directly improving the quality of medical care available to paediatric patients on the African continent. The state-of-the-art oncology unit will include a dedicated training and research facility which will build human capacity in treating child cancer.
The Islamic Relief global family shares Mr Mandela’s determination that all children should receive excellent medical care and treatment. Access to quality healthcare is a universal right, not a privilege reserved for those with wealth. No child will be turned away.
Norman Moyo is the head of Programmes for Islamic Relief South Africa. For more information on the Islamic Relief Oncology Centre of Excellence, email norman.moyo@islamic-