Services in Malawi for children with cancer remain strong, with Dr George Chagaluka now in charge of the ward and receiving distance support from previous lead, Prof Elizabeth Molyneux.
Prof Simon Bailey, twinning partner from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, UK, visited Malawi in March 2016 along with Prof Molyneux. They took small equipment and supplies with them and conducted daily ward rounds, as well as teaching the medical students spending time on paediatric oncology.
Through a corporate supporter World Child Cancer have been able to fund 2 new ultrasound machines for the ward which will be used in the diagnosis of abdominal tumours and provide a faster diagnosis than waiting for pathology results.
Children with Burkitt lymphoma continue to do well and we met one of the patients who was just about to finish his treatment at QECH.
Chimango has Burkitt lymphoma – a cancer of the lymphatic system. He had been at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre for 3 months when we met him, about to receive his final cycle of chemotherapy and due to to go back to his village the following week. He is from the Northern region of Malawi where he lives with his mother, father, and five siblings – three brothers and two sisters.
Chimango’s mother – Tafadzwa - first noticed there was something wrong with her son when his neck became swollen and swore. Chimango progressively became sicker with fever and flu type symptoms. He was nauseous, constantly tired, and would wake up sweating. His mother took him to the local clinic where they referred to a hospital in Lilongwe. After several tests Chimango was sent to QECH with suspected Burkitt lymphoma.
Chimango received the treatment he needs from the hard working and dedicated medical staff at QECH. He responded well to his chemotherapy and doctors are hopeful he will make a full recovery. Tafadzwa is extremely thankful for the medicine her son has received but life was hard on the ward and she was constantly worried about money to support the long stay away from home. Tafadzwa left behind her severely disabled husband who cannot work and is heavily reliant on Chimango’s brothers who earn a small amount of money farming their land. When the rains come their land can be flooded and their crops destroyed, leaving the family with very little to survive on.
Chimango and Tafadzwa are both happy to be back home. Chimango wanted to go back to school and Tafadzwa was eager to help out on the farm.
With the help of our supporters, we can continue to make life coping with childhood cancer treatment a little more comfortable for children like Chimango, and his family. Building resilient families and ensuring that children can complete their treatment is one of the main goals of World Child Cancer.
Thank you for your support
Since our last visit to Malawi in September 2015 the team have reported that last year they newly diagnosed 248 children with cancer in the paediatric oncology unit at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre. This is in addition to caring for dozens of children every month as outpatients.
As part of our support this year we were able to raise money to buy 2 new ultrasound machines for the unit, which will enable them to quickly and accurately diagnose children with abdomincal malignancies, especially Wilms' tumour. We hope that this new equipment can also help other departments within the paediatric service at QECH, including surgery.
The team, now led by Dr George Chagaluka, reported that in 2015 there was a reduction in the number of induction-related deaths, due to more vigorous monitoring of patients and an increased staff awareness of emergency signs.
Survival rates for children with cancer also continue to increase, especially for children with Burkitt lymphoma, a malignancy often related to malaria incidence in sub-Saharan Africa.
Follow-up of patients remains a challenge in Malawi - children travel from great distances to get to the hospital, and are often not reachable by phone. Ideally an outreach officer or nurse would travel to these patients to ensure that they are not showing signs of relapse, and to check that they remain in good health after finishing treatment. We plan to explore ways to support a follow-up service in Malawi and are investigating the development of this service with the team.
Supportive care has also been increased for patients, with improved availability of drugs for treating side effects and easing the painful symptoms of cancer therapy.Palliative care servcies are also being enhanced, with the increased involvement of a social worker with the ward.
We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our supporters in working with us to make this programme in Malawi possible. The team in Blantyre are extremely passionate and dedicated to improving the lives of children with cancer and do a wonderful job with the limited resources available to them. With your help we can continue supporting their wonderful work.
The World Chil Cancer Team
Wold Child Cancer (WCC) has now been working with the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi since 2009. Through a twining partnership between the University Medical Centre in Amsterdam and the Victoria Royal Infirmary in the UK, valuable knowledge, expertise and skills have been exchanged. In addition, treatment costs, equipment, and parent support – such as transport costs and follow up expenses - have been provided.
Earlier this month Liz and myself spent the week in Malawi with George Chagaluka and his team. As the end of a 5 year funding cycle approached, the aim of the visit was design a new model of support for the next 5 years. By identifying successes and challenges, priority areas were highlighted for the coming years. Time was spent with patients and their families to ensure appropriate support would be directed accordingly.
Meetings were organised with a number of different stakeholders including the Director of QECH to build relationships and increase support. Case studies were collected from dedicated ward staff, patients and their parents.
In addition, the trip nicely coincided with a Deutsche Bank trek to Mount Mulanji. 15 staff from the bank dedicated their time complete the challenging trek in support of children with Cancer. Liz and myself spent the evening with the trekkers to explain the issues surrounding childhood cancer and describing the partnership with the ward in Blantyre.
Thanks to all those who were involved in the visit and to the trekkers who put themselves through their passes!
World Child Cancer would also like to thank all those who have so kindly suppoorted the work in Malawi over the years. Your kind contributions have made real progress possible.
Our project in Malawi continues to progress and we are pleased that more children continue to receive the treatment and care they need.
Some project highlights and achievements from the last three months under the leadership of Professor Molyneux have been:
It is down to supporters like you that we can continue supporting children with cancer in Malawi. A big Thank You to you all!
World Child Cancer team
With your help hundreds of patients have received lifesaving cancer treatment in the last few years. But the increase in the number of patients accessing treatment - a very positive development - must be matched by increased resources. The team needs your help!
Some project highlights from the last three months under the leadership of Professor Molyneux have been:
Some objectives as the project moves forward in the coming months:
We appreciate your ongoing support; without the support of the global community many children suffering from cancer in Malawi would not stand a chance.
No child should suffer.
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