International Childhood Cancer Day: 50 Kids Die In India Every Day
Children live life king size but in a split-second all that can change. Every three minutes, somewhere in the world, a parent hears the earth shattering words, “your child has cancer”.
These four words change everything.
According to a study published in Indian Journal of Medical and Pediatric Oncology in 2017, cancer is the 9th common cause of deaths among children (aged between 5 and 14 years) in India.
The road to survival is a harsh, brutal one that is smeared with poking and prodding and injecting poisonous chemicals. And yet, in developing countries like India, cancer gets the better of 50 children every day. You read that right.
According to a study published in the Journal of Global Oncology in 2016, every day, cancer has the last word in the lives of 50 children across India.
Youngest Casualties Of Cancers Make Up Less Than 2% Of Global Cancer Burden
More than half of childhood cancers are caused by leukemias or tumours of the central nervous system. They are treated the same way as adult cancers, with harsh chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. There is a profound shortage of localised, targeted drugs with minimal side-effects for kids which kill only the cancer and not the healthy cells.
But governments and foundations fund more research for adult cancers. 60% of all funding for adult cancer drug development comes from pharmaceutical companies and that is reduced to zero in pediatric cancers. But take a closer look:
In India, only in the last decade have pediatric blood cancer specialists organised themselves, rolling out training programmes, sharing research material and newer techniques in treatment.
India Has the Highest Burden Of Childhood Cancers In the World
These are only the registered figures, the actual number which goes undiagnosed in rural India ‘must be much higher’.
The study in the Journal of Global Oncology also found that in developed countries more than 80% children with cancer are cured and lead near-normal lives. However, extreme shortage of paediatric cancer doctors, non-existent screening mechanisms and the lack of cancer hospitals in India are the main reasons for this acute mortality seen in kids.
At the moment, India is woefully unprepared to tackle the burden of cancer.
By the year 2025, the number of cancer cases in both kids and adults in India will multiply five times, with a higher spike in women than men, according to the World Health Organisation.
To break that figure down, there are a total of 2000 cancer specialists in the whole country to take care of 10 million patients. That comes to less than one oncologist for 1,600 cancer patients!
It is tough not to notice that India’s public healthcare system is already in shambles and children are the hardest hit.
Of the 70,000 children afflicted with this disease, only one out of 10 receives proper therapy and complete treatment.
Sar salamat toh pagdi hazaar is a popular proverb in Hindi. It means: in times of crisis, first get the basics right, embellishments can wait. Our policymakers should dwell on this ancient wisdom. After all, investing in children’s health will do wonders for a nation’s economic progress or ‘development’ as the current government’s buzzword goes.
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