Improving access to proven, cost-effective therapy could save many lives. AfrOx believes that sustainable treatment programmes need to be built in the context of the available human resources, equipment and facilities. AfrOx will focus initially on improving the treatment of childhood cancer. On average only 5% of childhood cancers in Africa are cured, compared to 75 – 80% cure rates in the UK. However, childhood cancer in Africa, especially Burkitt lymphoma (50% of tumours), Wilms’ tumour and retinoblastoma can be treated successfully at affordable costs. With early detection and improved access to treatment, there is a considerable potential to reduce child mortality from cancer.
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Development of Paediatric Oncology Services in Ghana
AfrOx is currently spearheading a proposed 5-year twinning programme between the Paediatric Cancer Unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana and a UK-based hospital. The twinning programme will help strengthen the human resource capacity for childhood cancer care in Ghana as well as provide some logistics including equipment where appropriate. The unit at Korle Bu sees 90 – 120 new oncology admissions/year, comparable to any such unit in the UK. It has access to good surgical, radiological and in a separate unit radiation therapy. However, the major challenges are understaffing, the cost of drugs, blood products and investigation (all borne by parents) plus inadequate diagnostic capacity. This project aims to provide sustainability funding to address issues including training and retaining key staff, obtaining affordable drugs internationally and improving pathology services (speeding the time from presentation to diagnosis). The immediate aim of this twinning project would be to ensure long-term sustainability for paediatric oncology services in Accra, but the longer-term aim is for this unit to be a model for paediatric cancer care in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa. There will be out-reach activities to support other paediatric units in Ghana, and it is hoped this programme would establish a template that could be replicated in other resource limited countries, particularly in West Africa. This project will begin in March 2009 with a needs assessment visit by an AfrOx team to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
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