Malawi
Where We Work Worldwide
Malawi
Malawi was the first programme that World Child Cancer started supporting. We partnered with the paediatric oncology unit at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, which was led by Prof Elizabeth Molyneux for a number of years and is now led by Dr George Chagaluka.

1,000 New

cases of childhood cancer expected annually in Malawi

280 Children

diagnosed each year at the hospital in Blantyre

£500

cost of treating a child with Burkitt lymphoma in Malawi

Programme Information

Programme
Centre

Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre

Twinning
Centre

Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle (UK)

Programme
Leads

Programme
Mentors

Prof Liz Molyneux, Dr Trijn Israels (PMC) & Prof Simon Bailey (RVI)

Contact

Piera Freccero, Head of Programmes

Start Date

January 2009

Background

Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre is the main tertiary care centre providing diagnosis and treatment for children with cancer.

The hospital diagnoses around 30% of the 1,000 expected annual cases in Malawi, mainly comprising Burkitt lymphoma and other relatively easily treatable solid tumours.

The centre provides healthcare free of charge but receives government funding which is insufficient to the needs, so many costs end up falling to families to fund themselves. As one of the poorest countries in the world, this causes huge barriers for families when facing the diagnosis of a child with cancer, and results in many being forced to abandon treatment.

Key Activities

  • Support in the development of adapted treatment protocols and aim for improvements in survival rates of easily treatable malignancies.
  • Capacity building for staff caring for children with cancer through ongoing training and mentoring.
  • Support salaries to ensure a safe number of nurses on the ward.
  • Enable infrastructure and equipment improvements to ensure quality treatment and care .
  • Support diagnosis and treatment costs to increase the accessibility of cancer diagnosis and treatment for more patients.
  • Decrease abandonment of treatment through family support and improved follow-up.
  • Provide welcome packs containing essential items for families new to the ward.
  • Support healthcare professionals to attend international conferences to raise the profile of paediatric oncology developments in Malawi.
  • Hold annual awareness event on international childhood cancer day to increase awareness in the community.
Malawi World Child Cancer

Problems

  • Only 1 doctor trained in paediatric oncology in the country
  • A shortage of trained nursing staff and lack of funding for government nurses
  • Over-stretched facilities, including within other essential paediatric departments such as pathology, surgery, imaging and palliative care
  • Delays in diagnosis often result in children starting treatment too late for a cure to be possible
  • High rate of abandonment due to practical issues associated with a lengthy hospital stay
  • Limited follow-up of patients due to lack of resources
  • Lack of awareness amongst healthcare professionals and in communities around childhood cancer symptoms and potential curability
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