US-based children research hospital seeks FG’s partnership to curb childhood cancer

A Children’s Research Hospital in the United States, St. Jude Global says it is ready to partner with the Federal Government to address paediatric cancer in the country.

The organisation’s Director for Sub-Saharan African Regional Programme, Dr Nickhill Bhakta, made this known on Tuesday in Abuja at a national stakeholders workshop on childhood cancer.

According to him, the changes in child healthcare were enormous and children now die from diseases such as cancer.

“The government is thinking about this and already moving in that direction. So, it is with great pleasure that we can give technical support to make sure that we make that transition faster and more effective.

“St. Jude has a commitment; we have invested 200 million dollars toward a Global Fund for childhood cancer drugs, together with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“We would like Nigeria to partner with us to take advantage of that global fund over the next five years.

“So, this effort that we have started here is the beginning of that dialogue, so that in the coming years, you will see those results and working with governments to bring opportunities to Nigeria,” he said.

Bhakta noted that one of the key areas to address the issue is through education and building capacity building for the next generation of paediatric cancer doctors.

He added, “That is something that we have done at St. Jude, all throughout the world, and that’s something we want to bring here, with support from Nigerian colleagues.

“We work in 84 countries around the world and we know what best practices have worked in Africa and other regions.”

On his part, Professor Usman Aliyu, the Director-General, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, said childhood cancer is an issue that requires urgent attention and collective action.

He said, “To this end, this workshop represents an opportunity to prioritise and strategise around specific needs of childhood cancer care in Nigeria.

“Through open dialogue, collaboration and innovation, we aim to develop a roadmap that will guide our efforts toward improving diagnosis, treatment,
and long-term care for children affected by cancer.

“This gathering represents a significant milestone in our collective efforts to address the critical issue of childhood cancer in our country.

“Furthermore, I wish to express the readiness of our institute to expand the scope of partnership with St. Jude Global in the areas of research, treatment, and capacity building to mitigate the scourge.”

Aliyu said the FG’s commitment to enhancing the country’s healthcare sector under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu is a testament to its dedication to unlocking the healthcare value chain.

The First Lady of Kebbi State and Co-Founder, Medicaid Cancer Foundation, Dr Zainab Bagudu, said paediatric oncology and childhood cancer outcomes are one of the greatest disparities high and low-middle-income countries face.

She said that the ultimate path that the country should be committed to is to increase access to oncology medicines and improve the outcomes for childhood cancers in Nigeria.

The First Lady noted that while high-income countries have cure rates of between 80 to 90 per cent, those in low-middle-income countries are still struggling with 20 per cent

According to her, the greatest burden with low-middle income countries like Nigeria when it comes to cancer control is lack of awareness.

“Awareness is really poor and people in rural areas don’t know what to do when they have cancer.

“There is also the problem of how to diagnose cancer and navigate the cancer pathway. So, if we involve civil society in cancer control more, we can overcome,” she added.

Bagudu noted that the low-hanging fruit in cancer care, which is early detection, is not as expensive as buying expensive mesh, radiotherapy machines and chemotherapy drugs.

She said, “Early detection is key and it saves lives. So, with awareness, we can get a hold of that low-hanging fruit and save lives easily by collaborating with civil society, scientists, government and the financial sector.”

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that in September 2018, WHO established the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer with the aim to reach at least a 60 per cent survival rate for children with the disease by 2030.

SOURCE:PUNCH

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