Nine out of ten children diagnosed with cancer in Kenya die; statistics by Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations (KNCO) indicate.
This worrying situation is linked to limited access to healthcare by cancer survivors with the gravity being dire in rural areas.
According to the statistics Kenya has about 12 oncologists who are burdened with the task of taking care of over 39,000 new cancer patients every year.
The country’s situation concerning children with cancer is a close inverse of the situation in developed countries where averagely three out of ten children diagnosed with cancer die.
Toby Tanser, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shoe4Africa Foundation whose major focus is to increase access to quality healthcare by children says Kenya needs to counter this situation urgently.
“We need to join hands if this situation is to be reversed before it escalates further. There is need for a modern cancer hospital specifically for children because they are invisible at the moment,” Tanser told Saasanews.co.ke
Tanser spearheaded the raising of over Sh 10 million US dollars to build a 150-bed-children’s hospital at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) said the cancer mortality rate among children must be reduced.
“We lose nine out of ten of children diagnosed with cancer in Kenya while in the US only one child dies. This means if we deliberately invest in programmes to counter cancer deaths we will reverse the situation, it needs all of us,” said Tanser.
The first public children’s hospital in East and Central Africa situated at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH.)
The Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital at MTRH is the first children’s public hospital in East and Central Africa and Tanser wants to embark on raising money to build the first public children’s cancer facility in Africa.
“A children’s cancer hospital is what I want for Kenya and Africa, it is a sure way to ensure children from poor families and have cancer can be treated because the current medical bills are prohibitive even to the middle class,” he added.
Tanser called on the Kenyan government, private organizations, athletes and well-wishers across the globe to support his upcoming initiative of having a public Cancer Children’s Hospital in Kenya.
His sentiments were echoed by MTRH CEO Dr Wilson Aruasa who acknowledged that cancer treatment among children has not been given significant attention a situation that needs to be turned around.
“Cancer is becoming common among children but there has been little focus to devise means of mitigating the situation. The children’s hospital here is hosting over 171 patients yet its capacity is 150 which points out there is a very high demand of children’s healthcare provision,” said Aruasa.
Dr Aruasa said there needs not only increased space for children in general hospitals, but also a special hospital where all needs of children can be met effectively.
This will hasten their recovery and improve management of chronic ailments thus reduced mortality he says.
“There is hope though because the government intends to set apart 240 beds for children in the first phase of the new 2000-bed-referral hospital where construction works will begin in a few months’ time. We plan to have 200 more beds for children in the second phase,” he said.
The referral hospital is set to cost the government over Sh50 billion.
According to Aruasa the high demand for children healthcare is occasioned by the high number of patients that stream into the country from as far as South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
KANCO statistics also indicate that over 28,000 people die from cancer every year which is an average of 74 people every day with this numbers being on the rise.
Other factors contributing to the grim statistics include limited number of specialists, few treatment centres, high cost of drugs and low awareness in management of the diseases by clinicians.