Joseph Dixon (Programmes Manager) visited Cameroon this month to learn more about the development of childhood cancer services in Cameroon. This is the first of several blog posts on the visit.
Over the last four years World Child Cancer (WCC) has been supporting a twinning partnership between the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) in the Northwest of Cameroon and Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. The CBC comprises of hospitals, schools and churches, and is a well-established and respected institute. It is through the network of hospitals that Prof Peter Hesseling (from Stellenbosch University) and Dr Paul Wharin (retired GP and Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust representative) have been able to develop childhood cancer services in the region.
Prof Hesseling with Dr Wharin with Comfort and Patience at Mbingo Hospital.
There are currently three hospitals involved in the project:
Mbingo Baptist Hospital – located just north of Bamenda – capital of the northwest region. The hospital has a 6 bed paediatric oncology ward.
Banso Baptist Hospital – the oldest hospital in the network which has an 11 bed paediatric oncology ward.
Mutengene Baptist Hospital – only received government status 4 years ago and is the smallest of all 3 hospitals. The paediatrics ward dedicates beds to cancer patients as they are needed.
Mbingo Hospital from afar.
Between these hospitals 120 children are treated each year. This number is increasing quickly through advocacy and awareness raising efforts that WCC has been supporting. In addition, and together with the Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust (BTMAT), WCC is also supporting treatment costs, transport and food support for patients and guardians, staff training and capacity building, and a palliative care outreach programme.
Many patients and their guardians travel for several days to reach one of the Baptist hospitals. This for many families is a huge financial burden and can simply be unaffordable for some. Financial assistance reduces the risk of treatment abandonment and allows some patients to return home between rounds of chemotherapy. Long hospital stays can result in a loss of income for many. Providing basic food such as rice, eggs, fruit and nuts, along with a small daily allowance can take away unnecessary outside pressure.
Providing high quality care is only possible if staff are provided with the specialist skills and training. To ensure the long-term sustainability of childhood cancer services in Cameroon WCC is committed to giving nurses the opportunity to specialise.
Mr Glenn Mbah and a patient at Banso Hospital.
Where curative treatment is not possible it is imperative that patients do not suffer unnecessarily. The palliative care outreach programme allows patients to return home and for nurses to visit them regularly. A motorbike has been provided which allows staff to access more rural areas.
Joel – palliative care nurse at Banso Hospital.
Further information on the Cameroon visit will be available next week.