September is the International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This year, the Daivyan Children Cancer Foundation, a non-governmental organization with the core interest of creating awareness on the scourge and supporting children battling cancer, ushered in the month in grand style by lighting up Teslim Balogun Stadium Lagos in an event tagged ‘Light Lagos Gold’.
The founder of the Foundation and mother of Daivyan, a three -year -old kidney cancer survivor, Mrs. Matilda Williams-Obiajunwa, felt there was a need to reach out to other kids battling the scourge her innocent child fought for over a year after he was diagnosed at the tender age of one year 11months.
According to Williams-Obiajunwa, the event was also to honour the kids lost to the scourge. She believed the kids’ demise had helped to increase awareness, saying it should also put pressure on the society to support children battling cancer.
The founder, in this interview, speaks on the event.
Why is this event necessary?
We decided to honour kids that have been lost to this scourge. We decided to also light up candles to inspire hope and encourage those battling cancer that we have got their back while encouraging survivors to reach out and share their stories. We also hope the event will increase awareness on the scourge and force individuals, organizations and international bodies to come to the rescue of children battling cancer in our country. A lot is at stake and we have qualified doctors but the facilities are not available. The fight against cancer should not be left for the families of victims alone because cancer can affect anybody. You don’t have to wait till it affects YOU before you act. These children are the future of the nation. We can’t fold our hands and watch them die due to lack of care and support; so we hope people get to read about this, watch it on Tv and begin to ask questions on how they can support.
What are the challenges childhood cancer patients are experiencing in Nigeria?
A major challenge is late diagnosis. Most children afflicted are diagnosed late. This is the main reason we keep working towards creating awareness to ensure early detection. Treatment is very expensive and families have to pay out of their pocket which is not meant to be. HMOs do not cater for cancer treatment. We need policies to ensure that children battling cancer can receive free and quality medical care. Like I mentioned earlier, facilities are not available. In the whole of Nigeria, we have only nine radiotherapy machines and none is working currently. How bad can it get? No platelet making machines, limited mobile oxygen machines, etc. All of these reduce survival rate, we can’t even boast of 20% survival rate as against 80-90% in developed countries.
What has been the response of stakeholders to your advocacy efforts?
Organisations do not like to support awareness and advocacy campaigns or events even if the events play a vital role in informing the public on the issues at hand, shedding light on these health conditions whilst helping to increase or pave the way for significant changes to be effected. Organizations should be proud to support events like these. For instance, our foundation reached out to over 60 companies to partner with us for this September event but none showed interest. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to September 29 when we have an event tagged ‘The Gold Ball Dinner’ where we hope to raise funds to buy an Apheresis machine, a platelet making machine for children receiving cancer treatment. The children, for instance, when taking chemotherapy, which is a major form of treatment for cancer, their blood count crashes. Platelet and blood transfusion are compulsory at this point. Sometimes mothers leave LUTH and go as far as the Island Maternity in search of platelet and when they don’t get, the next thing is that the vessels of the children start to burst, and, in a short time, we end up losing the kids. Let me acknowledge that the ‘Light Lagos Gold’ event was supported by Interactive Media, Trogge Urban, Primero Transport Services, Value Media, Invent Media, MC and D Limited, the management of Teslim Balogun Stadium, Pepsi, Funtuna Eggs and Funtuna Waters. Other events organized by the foundation are the Children’s Day Awareness March, held on the 27th of May every year, the Gold Challenge and the Merry Gold-Red Christmas Party. We can be reached.