Jawaher Al Qasimi calls to promote global childhood cancers awareness


Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and Royal Patron of the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) and International Ambassador for the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control, (UICC), has called for combined global efforts to promote worldwide awareness of paediatric cancer and provide access to treatment for children suffering with cancer, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

The call was made on the sidelines of the launch of the ‘Paediatric Oncology Roundtable to Transform Access to Global Essentials’ (Sharjah PORTAGE), being held under the theme ‘Challenges and Pursuit of Innovative Solutions’, which began today (January, 16) with the participation of 60 senior officials of international health organisations, medical and health experts and heads of private and public sector entities from around the world. The forum runs until tomorrow (January, 17).

“By playing host to the childhood cancer forum in line with the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member Ruler of Sharjah, the emirate is taking a new step in its commitment to combat cancer. Sharjah is pushing even further towards joint initiatives and collaboration with various international agencies as part of a worldwide campaign to promote awareness about the importance of early detection of cancer and combining efforts to save the lives of thousands of children with cancer around in the world, many of whom have died due to lack of resources,” said Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, who is also the International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC.

“Our duty towards children diagnosed with cancer or those at risk of cancer takes more than one approach. While our humanity prompts us to come together to save the lives of millions of children, we must acknowledge that the loss of children due to inaction or negligence by institutions and individuals who could have saved their lives, is a loss of human capital. Children are the real wealth that any nation pins so much hope on for bettering its future. Many children around the world die of cancer due to the inability of their countries to provide them with early detection examinations or prompt treatment,” Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi added.

Her Highness continued: “I call on civil society and public and private institutions to make real and active efforts and stand together in adopting clear policies to provide treatment for children with cancer all around the world. I would like to tell those who think saving children in the world is an impossible mission, your effort alone might be minimal, but by combining yours with others, there is no such thing as ‘impossible’. These efforts will have a great impact that one can only see in the eyes of mothers when they see their children recovering, leaving the suffering behind and turning a new page of their lives.”

HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of FoCP’s Board of Directors, opened the forum stressing the importance of Sharjah PORTAGE in encouraging global cooperation to eliminate children’s cancers and secure treatment and medicines.

Highlighting the global burden of child cancer and challenges to secure treatment for young cancer sufferers, especially in poor countries, Ruth Hoffman, CEO of the American Childhood Cancer Organization, said: “Over 300,000 children develop cancer worldwide each year. 80% live in developing countries where survival rates can be as low as 20%, compared to 80% in high-income countries. Thousands of children are dying unnecessarily when they could be treated or cured.”

Participants praised Sharjah’s immense efforts in supporting the fight against all types of cancer on a global scale and underscored the importance of organising the forum.

On day one, Avram Denburg from SickKids Hospital/International Society of Paediatric Oncology, gave a presentation on the importance of facilitating access to the essential and basic therapies for paediatric cancers that afflict children.

Anja Nitzsche-Bell from International Atomic Energy Agency followed up with an overview of the difficulties and challenges facing children with cancer to get radiation therapy on the global stage.

Day one also presented a session titled ‘Developing Access to Basic Treatments for Childhood Cancers: A Public-Private Partnership’. The session involved Jennifer Dent from Pew Global Attitudes Projects; Bharat Mehta from the Oncology Program for Children’s Cancer Hematology at Baylor University, Texas; and Michelle Ndebele, Cancer Program Manager, Analytics and Markets at the World Cancer Program of Clinton Health Access Initiative.

The next session, ‘Improving Access to Basic Treatments for Childhood Cancers: Civil Society Innovations and Global Health Management Solutions’, included Mariek Korstin from the International Association of Polyclinics; Busi Nkosi, Advocacy Manager of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network; Salim Salama, Medical Officer of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Middle East Regional Office of the World Health Organization; and Khama Rogo Odera from the World Bank.

They discussed partnership opportunities for obtaining medicines and the management of medicine supplies in low and middle-income countries, and identified difficulties in the provision of basic palliative care therapy for children. They also threw light on the need for international leadership and innovative financing methods.

Activities held on the forum’s first day concluded with the workshop ‘Collaborative Solutions: Opportunities for Multi-Initiatives for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines’ by Ephraim Dinburgh.

High-profile participation

Sharjah PORTAGE has seen the participation of high-profile officials from  a number of local and international companies, organisations and associations, including Andreas Stiller, World Bank Economist in addition to health specialists from around the world, such as Dr. Michael link, Pediatric Cancer Specialist at Stanford University and former President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, Chair of Department of Global Pediatric Medicine – ‎St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Lindsay Fraser, Professor of Pharmacy at Harvard University; Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of Children’s Non-Communicable Diseases; and Alessandra Ferrario, Department of Medicine Research in Africa at Harvard University.

The forum also welcomes the participation of Giancarlo Francis, Senior Project Manager of Global Health at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; Thomas Tuma, Head of Sales and Supplements at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; Dr. Ibtaham Fadhil, President, Regional Non-communicable Diseases Organization, Advisor to the World Non-communicable Diseases Organization, Non-communicable NCD Advisor, Ministry of Health and Prevention, among many others.

On Day two, the forum will debate the importance of training healthcare professionals to deal with initiatives aiming to treat children with cancer and setting a strategic framework to facilitate international access to medicines for paediatric oncology, especially in low and middle-income countries.

Sharjah PORTAGE is organised by FoCP as part of its efforts to combat cancer and support endeavours to eliminate the disease. It seeks to identify innovative financing mechanisms and funding partners to implement priority initiatives as well as develop strategies for effective communication between medical institutions and relevant authorities and organisations to coordinate efforts for fighting paediatric cancerous tumours.