BY PRUDENCE IJAH, Abuja
The federal government have been urged to make the issue of children cancer a national priority as these children deserve a right to life and access to treatment via its inclusion in the National Health Insurance Scheme coverage.
The founder of the Okapi Children Cancer Foundation Kemi Adekanye Babatunde who made this call in Abuja during a Childhood cancer awareness walk said it is crucial for government to equip hospitals and also provide health insurance coverage for children living with Cancer.
She said “Health insurance in Nigeria should cover cost intensive medical care like childhood cancer, like it is obtainable in developed countries, government needs to step in and equip our hospitals for proper cancer management and strengthen the National cancer institute”.
According to Babatunde, “awareness on children cancer is low because i didn’t know Children also suffer from various kinds of Cancers until my 50 year old Brother Okapi was diagnosed of Cancer in September 2016 and given few months to live and he said he is grateful to God that it is not a child that had cancer, I told him Children don’t have cancer but he insisted that I go to the hospital and check, my visit to the pediatric oncology ward of the National Hospital opened my eyes to the reality of Children Cancer as there were so many children with different kinds of cancer.
When I told Okapi of my discovery, he sent me N100,000 to give to them, after giving them the money, I realised the money wasn’t enough, So this led to the first childhood cancer awareness walk in February 2017, where we raised N400,000 which we gave to the Children battling cancer in National hospital.
Sadly my Brother passed on in May 2017 and I promised him we will carry on his memory by caring for children with cancer because he loved children and having a walk because he was an athlete and this led to this foundation which not only creates awareness but helps to raise funds for Children living with Cancer”.
The medical team from the Pediatric Oncology Ward in National Hospital who gave a talk at the awareness walk said awareness and early detection is key for survival.
The coordinator of the Amazing Amazons initiative Abuja Chapter Eunice Iyanya advocated for the inclusion of childhood cancer awareness in Antenatal health care for expectant mothers to be better informed about it as childhood cancer is expensive to manage.
A health and fitness consultant Ene Serfia said the first step is creating awareness that Childhood cancer exist and it is important to make childhood cancer a national priority.
Serfia said “The parents whose Children suffer from Cancer didn’t pray to get it, while the Oncologists presentation today, hinted that everyone needs to be aware as I learnt that cancers for Children below one year start from the womb during pregnancy”.
A member of the Okapi foundation Titilayo Ehi who said government alone cannot handle childhood cancer management called on all Nigerians to reach out to Children suffering from cancer as access to their drugs is a huge challenge while the cost of treatment is high.
Other participants at the Childhood cancer awareness walk expressed hope that the government and well meaning Nigerians will rise up to assist Children living with cancer.