The Miraculous Life-Saving Power of a Bed: My Unforgettable Story

Providing Hope and Support: How Bless a Child Foundation is Transforming Cancer Treatment in Uganda – BBC

Providing Hope and Support: How Bless a Child Foundation is Transforming Cancer Treatment in Uganda

When 14-year-old Dorcas Cherop’s family received the devastating news that she needed to undergo at least a year’s treatment for bladder cancer in Uganda, they were faced with a daunting challenge. It wasn’t just the medical care they had to worry about – mostly free at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) – but the high costs of multiple journeys to the capital and finding accommodation for frequent visits to the hospital.

“Transporting me from Kapchorwa in eastern Uganda to Kampala was beyond my parents’ means,” Dorcas explained.

Diagnosed at the age of 11 in 2020, Dorcas and her family had to endure exhausting fortnightly journeys to see doctors, even before her treatment began.

“It was a nightmare. At one point, we considered giving up and going back home,” admitted Dorcas’ aunt, Stella Chepchirir. “We had run out of money. But the worst part was seeing her in pain during the seven-hour journey to and from Kampala.”

Unfortunately, their situation is not uncommon in Uganda. In 2021, it was estimated that one in three children with cancer abandoned their treatment due to the hidden costs associated with it.

Dr. Joyce Balagadde-Kambugu, head of pediatric oncology at UCI, points out that many children with cancer in Uganda come from rural areas.

“About 80-85% of our pediatric cancer patients are peasants who live on less than $3 per month,” she said. “We’ve had a distressing situation, with an almost 50% treatment abandonment rate as a result.”

The Uganda Cancer Institute now collaborates with Bless a Child Foundation (BCF) to assist those in need. The “floor cases” – patients who have no choice but to sleep in the hospital corridors – are put in contact with BCS for support.

Challenges for those requiring cancer treatment in Uganda often result in families resorting to makeshift solutions like camping in hospital corridors, sleeping on cold floors with only a fleece blanket for warmth. Such cases have adverse effects on children’s health, with illnesses like malaria and diarrhea becoming common. BCF aims to provide a solution to these problems.

Dorcas’ family, who had given up hope of continuing her treatment, received an unexpected call from a man at UCI who connected them with Bless a Child Foundation. BCF has been providing free shelter to children with cancer since 2010, initially accommodating up to 10 children in a house in Kampala. They have since expanded to four homes across the country.

Each home can house about 100 children and one caregiver and offers meals, in-house education, psycho-social support, and transportation to and from hospitals on treatment days.

“We receive everything we need, from accommodation and food to clothes,” Dorcas said during an interview with the BBC. Her laughter and the laughter of other children at the BCF homes bring joy and relief to their worried families.

Over the past 13 years, BCF has supported more than 6,000 children with cancer. They provide not only accommodation but also psycho-social and bereavement support, play therapy, and remedial education.

According to Dr. Balagadde-Kambugu, the work of BCF has had a significant impact. The dropout rate for children with cancer has fallen dramatically to 9% in the past year.

“While we cannot conclusively attribute this to the shelter, it has certainly played a role,” she said.

For Dorcas, the foundation has been a lifesaver. Determined to beat cancer, she expresses her gratitude: “I am very happy now, and I’m no longer in pain like in the past. I’m grateful to the foundation for giving me a new lease on life.”

Dorcas is currently recovering at home, and she will return to Kampala in December for a check-up to see if she is in remission.

For more information on Uganda and cancer treatment, visit the BBC website.


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