Our Programme Advisor and Psychosocial Support Advisor visited Malawi

Last year, our Country Programme Advisor Ghazaleh Kad and Psychosocial Support Advisor Megan Cruise visited Malawi to gain a direct insight into the people and projects that World Child Cancer supports in the country.  

Meeting with Global HOPE- Malawi

Ghazaleh and Megan met with Texas Children’s Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology-Pediatric- Excellence) Program in Lilongwe. Global HOPE is focused on building capacity to diagnose and treat children with cancer and blood disorders, addressing the inequity of treatment and reducing child cancer deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa by partnering with local hospitals and Ministries of Health. It currently has programs in six countries, including Malawi. Since its establishment in 2016, the Global HOPE program in Malawi has treated over 1100 oncology patients and 1200 hematology patients, and trained over 2100 health care workers.  

World Child Cancer and Global HOPE aim to strengthen their collaboration through effective plans to improve quality of cancer treatment for children of Malawi. Global HOPE is focused on paediatric haematology-oncology in the Central and Northern regions of Malawi, while World Child Cancer covers the South and East of Malawi. In the meeting, participants discussed the treatment abandonment rates, continued support for the provision of drugs and direct support for the family of patients, amongst others. They also discussed how both parties can work together to advocate for childhood cancer in the non-communicable disease (NCD) space in Malawi and look forward to continuing this conversation and form joint actions through this relationship!  

Megan and Ghazaleh with Susan Wallani and Richard Sabawo from Global HOPE

Meeting with the Palliative Care Support Team 

As part of joint activities for Ghazaleh and Megan, they paid two visits to the homes of families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer.  During the visits, the team discussed all areas of life with the families; from physical and emotional well-being to the children’s progress with school.  These visits allowed Ghazaleh and Megan to see the Palliative Care Support Team in action, and they were able to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the support for the families. After the visits, it is agreed that continued support will be given to this essential department.  

The team’s drive, professionalism, and natural empathy was impressive. During the home visit, I saw the Palliative Care nurse instantly build a rapport and trust with family members allowing them to make a real impact on their lives

Megan with the Palliative Care Support Team

A highlight was seeing the Palliative Care Team's work improving the quality of life and creating a safe space for the child and families to speak about their feelings and thoughts. As both visits were for children with terminal illnesses, the outstanding leadership shown by the team despite the emotionally challenging and sensitive nature of their work was inspiring

The delivery of Megan’s trainings 

During her visit, Megan delivered two training courses. One for the PCST and one for paediatric oncology nurses and Play Therapist Aida Nkhoma.   

In both training sessions, Megan delivered a Building Resilience module. For the PCST session, two clinicians, one social worker and ten nurses from adult and paediatric care were in attendance. Moving forward, due to the success of the training of PCST, one nurse will lead on implementing the support plan.  

For the training with the paediatric oncology nurses and Play Therapist, those in attendance included the nurse in charge, Matron, six nurses, and Aida.   

The training was effective by allowing the participants to identify their weaknesses and overcome them to ensure the best delivery of care to patients. Nurses in the training built their knowledge on the best ways to handle future challenges they may face, even outside of the work setting.

Meeting with Child Play Therapist Aida  

With Child Play Therapist Aida, Megan discussed the implementation of a pilot trial with Xploro in QECH. Xploro is a mobile application which uses augmented reality, artificial intelligence and gameplay to improve children’s health knowledge. Aida will help support the introduction of widespread use of Xploro on tablets and provide training. In her experience, Aida has found this has helped children with cancer understand their diagnosis and treatment. In turn, this will reduce their anxiety over procedures such as x-ray scans which can be stressful for the children, and ultimately improve their clinical outcomes.   

Xploro helps to engage unstable children who would have preferred to sleep to stay active and happy

Child Play Therapist Aida with children using Xploro

Conclusion

Overall, the trip was a great success, and Megan and Ghazaleh were able to see firsthand the real impact of the work done by paediatric oncology team, the Palliative Care Support Teams, and our great Programme Team in Malawi that World Child Cancer supports and works with. They were also amazed by the beauty of Malawi, enjoying a great view from the lodge they stayed in.   

View from Ghazaleh and Megan's Lodge in Malawi

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible- we look forward to continuing our support for this incredible and life-saving work.   

It is thanks to the support from Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and yourself that our achievements thus far have been possible. There are many more children like Joseph in the world who desperately need your help – donate now to make a difference. 

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