Dar Es Salaam — Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) has opened a new paediatric unit for children with cancer.
The new unit is expected to reduce congestion at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), which cares for over 500 children each year.
MNH deputy managing director Makwaia Makani said the facility, built through contributions from a number of local and international organisations, among them Love, Hope, Strength Foundation and Children in Crossfire, will be able to care for more than 70 children at a time, and therefore reduce the burden on ORCI.
He said, however, that the facility was facing a shortage of experts specialising in cancer in children, adding that the hospital had put in place plans to train more doctors and nurses to have the capacity to treat children with cancer.
For his part, Dr Twalib Ngoma, the head of ORCI, said that children with cancer did not get proper treatment and care in the past, prompting the institute to establish a small paediatric ward designed to accommodate 20 patients, but which currently had more than 70 children.
He said, however, that despite the challenges, 75 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer had a chance of being cured.
“Advances in treatment mean that those who have access to early diagnosis and cure have a chance of making a full recovery…it’s a far cry from the situation in the past,” Dr Ngoma said.
He added that the cancer survival rate among children had improved from between 15 to 20 per cent in 2006 to 60 per cent in 2009. A children’s cancer specialist, Dr Trish Scanian, said the new ward had been built to international standards.
“Children with cancer need to be managed within a larger paediatric facility that has access to a 24-hour blood bank, ICU, pathology and surgical services, among others. (Rosemary Mirondo)