City of Joburg health department is joining the world in commemorating Childhood Cancer Awareness Month symbolised by wearing a gold ribbon.
Founded in 2010, by former US president Barack Obama, this annual international awareness month is aimed at raising support, funds and awareness of childhood cancers, as well as the impact for sufferers and families of sufferers of childhood cancer.
MMC for Health and Social Development Clr Mpho Phalatse said access to health care is a constitutional right.
“It is for this reason I believe we should put more effort in improving diagnosis, access to best treatment and care, as well as quality support for children with cancer and their families,” she said.
Also read: Beating childhood cancer together
“According to the Child Cancer Association, 80 per cent of all child cancer cases, globally, occur in low and middle-income countries and survival rates are as low as 10 per cent in low-income countries compared to 80 per cent in high-income countries.
“This proves there are gross inequities in health care that continue to persist between and within the countries of the world,” said office of the MMC Health and Social Development stakeholder manager Lesego Mathibela.
Mathibela said between 800 to 1 000 South African children are diagnosed with cancer annually.
“However, it’s estimated half of the children with cancer in South Africa are misdiagnosed or never diagnosed. Many children with cancer never get to a specialist hospital to receive care, treatment or pain relief. This is as a result of families having to spend long periods of time away from home and travelling great distances to hospital, continually being pushed further into poverty due to loss of income,” she said.
“I believe no child should be left to die of cancer when they could be cured with some of the relatively simple and affordable treatments, no matter where they were born or what their social status is,” said Phalatse.
“The awareness month highlights some forms of cancers mainly or exclusively seen in children. The psychological effects of childhood cancer are devastating to families and friends of a child diagnosed with cancer.
“The stress load becomes overwhelming to parents, due to constant decisions they have to make on treatment regimens, time off work in order to care for the child, the anguish of trying to explain to a child about what is happening to them and worst of all, the fear of losing a child to cancer.
“At a time when young children with cancer should be focusing on school and socialising, their focus is directed towards medication, operations, and what life they have left, in turn, hampering their growth and development,” said Mathibela.
Also read: Being clued-up about childhood cancer
Phalatse said children can be more resilient to cancer and cancer treatments than adults, and there are many cases of triumph and complete recovery.
“But awareness, education and support are vital, which is why Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is also vital. There is hope. I challenge all members of the community to go out and make a difference by donating as little as R20 and receive a gold ribbon to support a child with cancer,” she said.
Ribbons can be purchased from Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (Choc), Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) and Pick n Pay.