Close the gap in cancer care-KidzCan

KidzCan Zimbabwe recently rallied government and other partners for more support towards childhood  cancer treatment at a webinar hosted by the Ministry of Health and child Care in a build-up  to the World Cancer Day  commemorated on the 4th of February which saw various stakeholders giving presentations on a theme dubbed “Closing the gap in cancer care”  

Speaking at the virtual meeting, KidzCan Executive Director Mr. Daniel Mackenzie said children are at the receiving end of cancer irrespective of where they are born making them suffer the most.

“Children are children irrespective of where they are born, cancer is cancer, the chemotherapy drugs are the same, treatment may be the same, why then do others have survival rates above 80% and ours below 20%?” he asked.

He called for the urgent address of fair treatment and distribution of resources among cancer patients as the equity gap was costing lives.

“This is the equity gap and it is costing lives, people who seek cancer care hit barriers at every turn,” he said. He implored government and other partners to continue supporting cancer work.

“KidzCan continues to lobby for more support from government and other partners like World Health Organisation (WHO) and St Jude, who now have come up with the Global Initiative on Childhood Cancer to increase the survival rate of the 6 most common cancers to 60% by the year 2030.

 It is time we closed this gap. Also, thanks to St Jude announcing support of USD 200 million to 12 countries with chemotherapy drugs for 6 years.” 

He said KidzCan are filling the gap through their vision and mission to increase the survival rate in a loving and caring environment through offering bus fares, admission packs, diagnostic imaging, chemotherapy drugs, psychosocial support and nutritional support. 

Mackenzie added that factors like income, education, geographical location and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and lifestyle are core contributors towards poor treatment of cancer.

“The most disadvantaged groups are also more likely to have increased exposure to a host of the risk due to tobacco, unhealthy diets environmental hazards,” he said. 

He said it was high time the gap between rich and poor was closed so that survival rates can be boosted and this can only be done when cases are presented early.

 “In Zimbabwe patients reach the hospital as a last hope, having gone all over the country looking for help due to the fact that they have no information on childhood cancer and that it is curable if presented early. They will have spent all their finances, are now dry, and out. But they are faced with further challenges in the hospital, diagnostics, medication costs if available or working”, he said.

Speaking at the same event (WHO) country representative Dr Tsitsi Siwela said the poor have a high risk of getting cancer and therefore there is a need to adopt a multi-sectoral approach in tackling the disease.

“We have noted that the poor are at high risk of getting cancer so we want to advance universal health coverage,” she said.

Representatives from Parirenyatwa, Mpilo Hospitals and others equally made the clarion call towards cancer treatment support.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Chief Oncologist Dr Nothando Mutizira said the number of new cancer patients at Parirenyatwa Radiotherapy Centre had declined.

“In terms of the radiotherapy statistics, you notice that the services are highly unreliable. There was no continuous provision of services. It has been interruptions here and there because of machine breakdowns.

Most of 2020, we did not have any radiotherapy services at all until August when the machines were fixed and the service was available here and there afterwards.

“In 2021, we had one machine working for all of 2021, the other two machines were down,” said Dr Mutizira.

It was also revealed that the two radiotherapy machines at Mpilo have been down since 2021.

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