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Survivor opens safe house for minors undergoing cancer treatment

 Sydney Chaonyo, founder and Director of House of Hope to Cancer Kid’s Foundation.

Parents with children undergoing cancer treatment and management can now breathe a sigh of relief after a cancer advocacy agency launched a safe house - specifically for the young ones.

The house was recently unveiled in Nairobi, with the man behind the project drawing lessons from his own experience with the deadly disease.

Sydney Chaonyo, the founder and Director of House of Hope to Cancer Kid’s Foundation, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. He holds that had it been identified earlier, it could have been nipped in the bud.

He adds that cancer in children can be handled and even cured, but bemoans the high number of advanced cancer cases among children in the country.

“We have very many children who are dying not because the cancer was terminal, it’s because it was diagnosed late or they did not have access to treatment,” said Chaonyo.

He adds that parents and guardians with children battling the disease go through traumatic experiences, coupled with the financial burden that comes with it,  both here in Kenya and overseas.

Chaonyo also notes that although the cost of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments is an uphill task that parents and guardians with cancer patients face,  logistical issues - including transport and accommodation –make it a nightmare for many.

“What we want to do is eliminate those barriers, so that anybody who is told to come for treatment in Nairobi regardless of where you are, you will have somewhere to stay while receiving the treatment,” Chaonyo says.

He adds, “The facility will also have psychosocial support where the parents will be counselled because the process is not easy for (both) the child and parent, hence the need for mental support.”

Joyfrida Chepchumba, a Program Officer in charge of Treatment and Palliative Care and Survivorship, says the survival rate in Kenya for cancer patients is below average, but the agency hopes to raise the bar soon.

 “We have a target by 2030 to bring survival rate to 60 per cent, it is called global initiative on childhood cancer being implemented all over the world,” states Chepchumba.

She adds that despite the appalling rates, they are working on some interventions to see more children with cancer go on with their normal lives.

“We have early detection programmes where we have some early warning signs that we are teaching our health care workers to see and pick out in children in good time and refer them directly to referral facilities,” she said.

However, Faith Wangari, a caregiver to a seven-year-old cancer patient, urges the government to make cancer treatment affordable by allowing NHIF to cater to more chemo and radiotherapy treatment cycles

“I had to skip some appointments…The medications were too expensive for me, not to say much about the appointments because the NHIF only pays for six cycles yet I had 27 cycles,” said Wangari.

 Wangari says the prescribed cancer treatment option - borne marrow transplant or surgeries - is only done in India yet to costly.

She says fundraising for a cancer patient is not easy because planning for the event takes time, as the disease escalates. Many people also have this perception that cancer cannot be cured, hence they see no need to come through for the patient.


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