KidzCan invited to speak at the United Nations General Assembly

September 2023 saw heads of state congregating in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). A side event alongside the UNGA was organized by the Slovak Republic, and Argentina with support from St Jude Global Alliance, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to commemorate the main milestones achieved by the WHO’s Global Initiative on Childhood Cancer. The meeting was themed Cure All Implementation advancing toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC) realisation and bridging the survival gap in childhood cancer. It aimed at commemorating the main milestones achieved in five years since the launch of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC) and strengthening international commitments to address disparities in paediatric cancer care.KidzCan was then invited to represent children suffering from cancer globally, a crucial platform in the fight for children’s right to survival.

It was an opportunity to bring to the fore the growth of KidzCan from a local foundation into a global player. There was no better way to tell the story than through sharing the compelling story of our remarkable survivor Wadzanai Michelle Mayiseni. As an amputee, and bone cancer survivor, Wadzanayi’s journey serves as an inspiration and a call to action in the fight against childhood cancer. Despite her challenging background in the ghetto suburb of Kambuzuma in Harare, she defeated cancer and earned her place at one of the world’s top universities, Columbia University, where in May 2023 she graduated with honours in Neuroscience and Behaviour. Addressing the meeting, Wadzanayi narrated how she escaped from the grasp of cancer, in settings
that have a low survival rate.

She did not only attain a prestigious degree but also posted the best speech that further decorated her on the academic front, giving her a voice. In 2012, at the tender age of twelve, Wadzanayi one day collapsed during a normal physical education session, which, in an unbelievable tale unfolded like fiction. In no time, an x-ray confirmed an osteosarcoma diagnosis, a disease that had earlier claimed the life of her paternal grandfather’s brother, setting her

wondering whether the same fate would befall her. She was, however fortunate to receive assistance from KidzCan Zimbabwe which was only in its third year of being registered as a Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO). “With KidzCan’s support, drugs were procured, and I was able to start chemotherapy right after my amputation. KidzCan was also there to hold my hand as I transitioned back to school and reintegrated into society,” said Mayiseni. Tragically, countless Zimbabwean children battling cancer do not have access to the same support.
Underprivileged families from remote areas endure long journeys to access treatment, only to find drugs unavailable for extended periods, allowing cancer to progress unchecked.
Additionally, Zimbabwe’s sole functioning radiotherapy machine is privately owned, leaving patients requiring this treatment helpless. For families already struggling to make ends meet, being asked to finance cancer treatment is tantamount to a death sentence. Such inequities in healthcare are morally and socially unacceptable.

“Access to quality health care is every individual’s right and should never be denied because of the socio-economic circumstances under which they live.” Said Mayiseni.
She added that addressing the disparity in childhood cancer survival rates between the global north and south is not just essential but urgent and that the loss of more children to cancer, based solely on their place of birth is a tragedy that should be prevented. National policies should prioritize universal health coverage, ensuring that ‘no child is left behind.’

She concluded by imploring international health aid organizations to collaborate more extensively with developing nations to bridge the gap in cancer care. Wadzanayi’s success story should not be an exception; it should set the standard for all children battling cancer. The GICC aims to raise the childhood cancer survival rate to 60% by 2030.

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