As we mark the 20th International childhood cancer Day (ICCD) on 15th February 2021, the childhood cancer community is fortunate to launch the pan India ICCD campaign by Dr. V.K.Paul, Member NITI Aayog (leads the Health and Nutrition verticals). The month long ICCD campaign will go across 21 cities and 68 cancer centres to acknowledge the thousands of children and their families who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, raise awareness and advocate for better survival for children with cancer in India.
On the occasion Childhood Cancer Survivors of Kidscan Konnect: The teenage and youngadult survivor group of Civil Society Organization Cankids performed a thought provoking nukkad natak “Mera Haq” to express their story of their fight with cancer, the reasonswhy children in India are dying of cancer, what the families want and what needs to be done. “Why did I need to go to 22 hospitals before I could get diagnosed and treated,” asked Vikas a Retinoblastoma Eye Cancer survivor. “Why did my family have to be uprooted from UP to Mumbai for my treatment,” demands Sandeep Yadav, an Ewings sarcoma leader.
As the small group of child cancer patients, survivors and parents presented Dr Paul with their handprints on the Tree of Life dreamcatcher with the theme #CUreALL Better Survival for Children with Cancer #ThroughOurHands, launching the ICCD program, Dr. V.K.Paul, Member NITI Aayog (leads the Health and Nutrition verticals) said “Their energy and commitment to the cause is amazing. The children are our future. Childhood Cancer is treatable and access to better treatment, care and support is a priority for the government and all stakeholders.”
India accounts for 26% of the new childhood cancer cases diagnosed worldwide each year(India 76,000 worldwide 3,00,000).Childhood cancer cure rates are as high as 70 to 95%. High mortality rates in our country of over 70% are just unacceptable.Poor access to care, lack of information, delays in diagnosis, inadequate treatment facilities and professionals, high medical expenses and absence of financial and other supportive care are significant reasons for the same.
Treating childhood cancer successfully is low hanging fruit in any War against Cancer, with survival rates that are as high as 80-95% in developed countries. The single biggest driver of success is timely medical access. It is a pity that barely 30% children in India get such access, a statistic that compares poorly with countries around the world. This becomes the primary cause for low survival rates of 20-30% – even though the better treating centres in the country are achieving 50 – 80% survival.
As Ritu Bhalla, 2-time cancer survivor, and Girl Child Ambassador said at a WHO conference in 2019, “Why should where I am born determine whether I get treatment or not?”
“The paediatric oncology community has done yeoman’s work over the years, but now we need support from a comprehensive national agenda that is sponsored and supported by national and State Governments. We owe it to India’s children to do the right thing,” echoed Piyush Gupta, CEO DBS Global and a Cankids donor and Ambassador.