The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has cut the sod for the construction of a three-storey hostel to accommodate parents taking care of their children with cancer at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra.
The project, estimated at GH¢2 million, is expected to have 30 beds.
The sod-cutting ceremony marked this year’s International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD), which falls on February 15 every year.
The theme for this year is “Better Access to Care for Children and Adolescents with Cancer Everywhere”.
The construction of the hostel is a collaboration between the Ghana Parents’ Association for Childhood Cancers (GHAPACC) and the KBTH.
In Ghana, there is no comprehensive epidemiological data on the magnitude of childhood cancers, but according to health experts, using estimates from incidence data in more developed countries, about one in 500 children will be affected by age 15.
With Ghana’s population at over 25 million, health experts estimate that about 1,000 children below 15 years are likely to be affected yearly.
Pledging her commitment to support the project, the First Lady said she had accepted to become an ambassador of cancer.
She said many challenges bedevilled children with cancer saying one of the problems was the lack of suitable accommodation for parents while they were at a health facility when their children were on admission for treatment.
She said once functional, the facility would bring relief to many parents and guardians who had to travel several hours for the treatment of their children.
The First Lady, however, appealed to the management of the hospital, saying, “Beyond providing a hostel, we should go a step further to consider access to well-balanced diets for the children and their families.”
She also said as many of the children would have to live in the facility for several months, it was important that their educational needs were also met. She suggested that the hostel should have teachers assigned to the children.
The Head of the Paediatric Oncology Unit of KBTH, Professor Lorna Awo Renner, in a presentation, said very little was known about the causes of childhood cancers.
She noted that many types of cancers had the highest incidence in children at an early age, which suggested causative factors operated before birth.
According to her, current data showed that 37 per cent of childhood cancer cases were lymphomas, followed by leukaemia, eye cancers , kidney cancers, among others.
Presently, she added that drugs for childhood cancers were not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), calling for more attention in that regard.
The Chairperson of GHAPACC, Dr Kwame Aveh, called for support from corporate bodies, organisations and philanthropists to help raise funds to build the hostel facility.