Arriving in Yangon, a city I have got to know well over the last few years, I am struck by the heat. It is building up to the hottest period of the year and temperatures are hitting 40. Everyone complains, but actually I prefer this to the cold spell we had left behind in London, though ducking into air conditioning is a relief too.
Yangon children’s hospital is in a converted Ministry of Health office building vacated when the government moved to the new capital at Naypiydaw. It is hot and the facilities are limited with the out patients all sitting in the lobby outside the lift and being treated there. However, on the wards there is quiet order and we are shown around by Dr Aye Khaing, who leads the child cancer service. She knows the history and story of every child and the teamwork of the doctors and nurses is clearly apparent. She has built this unit into an increasingly effective unit to treat children with cancer. Over 60% of children with leukaemia now survive treatment which is a significant achievement.Dr Ei is a young paediatric oncologist who has just returned from 3 months in London, funded by World Child Cancer, and she is now full of energy to put into practice all she has learned.
It is very heartening to see the support that we have been able to give to Yangon Children’s Hospital, with funding with UK aid from the UK government, being put to such good use, although there is so much more that we need to do. Outside the hospital it is shocking to see the parents trying to live in the car parks and under the trees while they support their children through treatment. They have often travelled long distances to get here, and suffer great hardship to try and stay and see their child through months of treatment. Later in the week I will meet with a group of parents who want to set up a parents group to provide emotional and practical help to all the parents coping with the challenges they face. We badly need to get funding for a parents hostel so that they can have a safe and decent place to live with their sick children while treatment is underway.
The programme in Myanmar is funded with UK Aid from the UK government.