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Rebecca Akufo-Addo honoured for supporting cancer care among children

The Childhood Cancer Society of Ghana (CCSG) has honoured Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the first lady, for helping to improve access to care for hundreds of children with cancer, thereby, improving their chances to cure.

‘She singlehandedly built the ‘Sunshine Hostel’ when she was approached by the Ghana Parents’ Association for Childhood Cancer (GHAPACC) for assistance soon after she became the first lady of Ghana.

‘She was also instrumental in getting four of the commonest cancers on the NHIS-Burkitt Lymphoma, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Wilms Tumour (Kidney) and Retinoblastoma (eye).

‘She also built the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Korle-Bu, which has directly saved the lives of so many children, including childhood cancer patients.

‘CCSG is highly indebted to her, and we are honoured to have her with us at this Annual General Scientific meeting (AGSM), Professor Lorna Awo Renner, President of the CCSG said at the award ceremony held in Accra as part of the annual general and scientific meeting, att
ended both virtually and in person by the participants.

The AGSM was held on the theme: ‘Improving Paediatric Cancer Care in LMICs- Lessons learnt.’

It featured some scientific presentations on Nutrition in Children with Cancer, Early Referral for Brain Tumours, Quality Improvement Initiative by Nurses and a Training Programme on Blood Disorders.

Prof Renner, who read the Citation and presented the certificate of Lifetime Membership of CCSG to Mrs Akufo-Addo, said the first lady had given a major boost towards the health care of children and mothers in the country through her philanthropic work.

She said with such major push, the country was on course in the care of cancers among children, stating that there were three comprehensive treatments centres, namely Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, and the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.

There were also five shared care centres where some aspects of childhood cancer treatment could be delivered, namely, Cape Coast,
Tamale, and Ho Teaching Hospitals and the Holy Family Hospital at Techiman and Kumasi South Hospital.

‘The past 15 years has seen marked improvement in childhood cancer services from only one comprehensive treatment centre in Ghana with one Paediatric cancer specialist in 2010 to seven specialists now in Accra, Kumasi and Ho. ‘We also have 29 trained Paediatric Oncology nurses, three specialized pharmacists and three Child Life specialists,’ Prof Renner stated.

She mentioned partners that have been instrumental in improving childhood cancer services in Ghana as including the World Child Cancer and World Health Organization (WHO), all working closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service.

Prof Renner, however, said for Ghana’s population of over 30 million people, ‘we would expect about 1200 children to develop cancer annually. Only 500 children were diagnosed with cancer in Ghana in 2023, less than half the expected number.’

She said, ‘there was a lot more that needs to be done and CCSG
is looking forward to working together with all stakeholders, including the media, to help advance timely access to quality services for children affected by cancer in Ghana.’

Dr Patrick Kuma- Aboagye, Director- General, GHS, commended all stakeholders, especially, Mrs Akufo-Addo for partnering the state to care for its citizens.

He said key challenges remained in the care of childhood cancers, including the lack of adequate human resources and personnel needed to care for patients.

He said the GHS was working with the colleges to identify the needs of the various care centres to train the requisite staff and specialists needed to care for cancer patients.

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Government Advisor on Health services, said Ghana was now a WHO global initiative for childhood cancer focus country and ‘we have to achieve at least 60 per cent survival for all children affected by cancer by 2030.’

He expressed happiness that the CCSG was working with all stakeholders to enable Ghana attained the WHO target by
the said time.

In her response, Mrs Akufo-Addo acknowledged the daunting roles of the various health workers in caring for the people, especially, the children with cancer and assured of her commitment in helping deliver healthcare needs of the people, through her Rebecca Foundation.

Source: Ghana News Agency