Over 350,000 children in Nigeria, other poor countries can’t access cancer treatment, says WHO

The World Health Organisation has revealed that about 350, 000 children children diagnosed with cancer in Nigeria and other low and middle-income countries, lack access to treatment, warning that this limits their chances of survival.

Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made this known during his weekly press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, noting that only a quarter of low-income countries can provide childhood cancer medicines through public benefits.

“This subjects children and families to significant suffering and financial hardship, or puts them at risk of receiving substandard and falsified medicines. As a result, the survival of children in these countries is less than 30 per cent, compared with more than 90 per cent for children in high-income countries,” he said.

Ghebreyesus said in order to have this addressed, the WHO, supported by the United States-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a non-profit pediatric treatment and research facility focusing on leukaemia and other cancers, launched the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in 2018.

The initiative aims for, at least, a 60 per cent survival rate in low and middle-income countries by 2030, focusing on six cancers that are highly curable, and which represent more than half of all those found in children globally.

He noted that in December 2021, the WHO and St. Jude initiated a global programme to improve access to childhood cancer medicines

“Its goal is to provide universal, sustained access to quality-assured, essential cancer medicine” for children outside developed economies free of charge,” he added.

Ghebreyesus said the WHO also announced that cancer medicines are among those that have been added to the latest version of the WHO Essential Medicines List and the Essential Medicines List for Children, published yesterday (Thursday).

He said, “The new lists also include important new medicines for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, infectious diseases and cardiovascular conditions, among others.

“These treatments could have a very large public health impact globally, without jeopardising the health budgets of low and middle-income countries.”

Countries all over the world have relied on the list as a definitive, evidence-based guide to the most important medicines for delivering the biggest health impact for over 40 years.

Making reference to climatic conditions across the globe, the WHO noted that temperatures have remained high across the northern hemisphere, threatening human health and well-being, amid estimates that over 61,000 people died from heat-related causes in Europe last month.

Heat stress, which is defined as the inability of the human body to cool itself, can trigger exhaustion or heat stroke and exacerbate conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases, as well as mental health problems, says WHO.

“We are concerned about the impact of extreme weather on the health of people who are displaced or living in conflict-affected or vulnerable settings, where there is limited or no access to safe water and sanitation, lack of cooling and shortage of medical supplies,” WHO DG added


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