World marks International Childhood Cancer Day

By Dina Matengo & Nakayima Ritah

Childhood cancer incidence in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 56.3 per million population. And current World Health Organization (WHO) projections suggest that Africa will account for nearly 50 percent of the global childhood cancer burden by 2050.

Reducing that burden is one of the reasons why nations across Africa and around the world observe International Childhood Cancer Day every February 15.  Organizers create the day to raise awareness and show support for these children with cancer as well as their families. This is also a day to remember all the children who have lost their lives to cancer.

In Africa, countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, and Senegal have developed National Treatment Guidelines for childhood cancer, marking a significant improvement in the cancer landscape. The WHO says this strategic action will contribute to the increase in survival rates for children with cancer in these countries.

In Ghana, there are now three major childhood cancer treatment centers. For example, World Child Cancer is a registered charity in UK and Ghana with a vision of having a world where every child with cancer has equal access to the best treatment and care.

World Child Cancer has been in Ghana for 11 years and has been supporting Ghana in the management of childhood cancers. This year several stakeholders joined hands to commemorate the day, all calling on all key stakeholders responsible for the full implementation of this Ghana’s Universal Health Coverage roadmap that enables the protection of children and families, especially those with non-communicable diseases such as childhood cancer.

Out of the almost 400,000 children diagnosed with childhood cancer annually, South Africa accounts for almost 1,500 of this global number. South African health authorities have initiated a program to disseminate information to empower the communities with knowledge about the early warning signs and the unique and complex challenges faced by children with cancer and their families.

Elsewhere, in Uganda, it is estimated that nearly 5,000 children develop cancer every year, but only about 20 percent of these are diagnosed or get treatment.


“We diagnose about 300 children with cancer at Mulago every year. These have varying periods of treatment ranging from a few months to over three years,” Dr Peter Wasswa, a senior consultant pediatrics hemato-oncologist at Mulago, said. But today, the country celebrated the success of ten children who beat cancer.

According to UNICEF, providing access to quality childhood cancer treatment should be one of the priorities for every healthcare system. The International Day of Children with Cancer, launched in 2002, is a global call to all governments and international organizations to work together with parents and groups of children cured of cancer, civil society and the private sector in order for childhood cancer to become a public health priority.

The three-year campaign for International Childhood Cancer Day began in 2021 and will conclude in 2023. The theme for the three-year campaign is ‘Better Survival’. The campaign is part of the effort to reach the target goal of the WHO Global Childhood Cancer Initiative to achieve at least 60 percent survival for all children diagnosed with cancer around the world by 2030.

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