A day in the life of Dalida

Dalida is the Data Manager at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), supported by World Child Cancer, and has been working on the Paediatric Oncology ward for six years. Earlier this year Dalida spent a few days away from the ward to carry out 17 follow up appointments, travelling by car through several districts across Malawi.

Unfortunately, four of the children she visited had died with one being down to a relapse following treatment. Despite being treated at the Paediatric Oncology unit at QECH and being discharged after a successful course of treatment, when the child relapsed the family visited their local district hospital instead of coming back to the QECH.

“The family simply could not afford to travel several hours back to QECH for follow up treatment and instead visited their local hospital who could not provide the treatment that was needed. This is a sad reality for many families throughout Malawi where the cost of travel prevents children with cancer from accessing the treatment they desperately need.”

To prevent travel costs stopping children from accessing the treatment they need, when patients and families are discharged from the paediatric oncology ward they are given a travel voucher. This is exchanged for money to cover the cost of their journey home, a scheme supported by the hospital’s central fund and World Child Cancer.

“The hospital did trial paying for the travel for follow up appointments; however, if the parents consider their child’s health to be improving they spend the money on food and essentials for the family instead of returning for treatment. The travel vouchers are a way of ensuring the money is spent on essential travel costs for families travelling home from hospital.”

Cost of travel was not the only reason cited by Dalida for missed follow up treatments. Some families from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique would cross the border for treatment but would provide false addresses when reaching the hospital. Dalida has previously spent several days searching for families who have provided false addresses to the hospital.

“They were scared their child would not receive the treatment they needed if they provided their real address as being abroad. Children would then be discharged from hospital with no follow up treatment and no way for us to the contact the family despite the fact that children would never be turned away simply because they are from another country.  Families are unaware of this and frightened of the consequences.”

When a child develops cancer in a developing country it can have a major impact on the entire family. With so much time and money spent travelling to and from hospital, seeking accommodation during long treatment periods and being unable to work to earn money, families are at risk of being pushed further into poverty. By providing funds for transport and treatment costs, we can ensure that more children gain access to the treatment they need without families having to worry about the financial implications of travelling to hospital.

More recently, Dalida has been visiting children treated for Burkitt Lymphoma with follow up appointments with greater success, meaning more children are now on the road to recovery, by ensuring parents understand the importance of continuing treatment.

With your support we can help more families not only access treatment but also complete medical cycles. Just £100 could cover six months of transport costs to and from hospital for a child with cancer in the developing world.