02/12/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/12/2024 02:52
About 61,000 new cases of childhood cancers are diagnosed and 45% of them succumb to the disease every year in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Estimates show that about half of the total new cases remain undiagnosed in the region. High income countries have achieved an overall cure rate of upto 90 percent in childhood cancer. To reduce this gap, WHO launched the global initiative for childhood cancer with the aim of achieving a global survival rate of 60% by 2030. In alignment, three focus countries were identified and one regional network of institution was established in the South-East Asia Region to facilitate implementing best practices. The aim of the regional initiative is to improve quality and coverage of care for childhood cancer. The early results have been able to generate interest and participation from other countries and institutions.
WHO supported the focus countries to prioritize childhood cancer in policies. Myanmar and Sri Lanka have standalone national strategies, in Nepal it has specific focus within the national cancer strategy. Through the South-East Asia Childhood Cancer Network (SEAR-CCN) a network of twenty-three tertiary level institutions linked for technical capacity and quality care, WHO has been implementing works aimed at quality improvement. Twenty-three sessions of cross-country virtual tumor board meetings were held in the biennium, twenty institutions from nine countries regularly participated in the meetings. Seven institutions from five countries have participated in the external quality assurance systems in pathology. 190 nurses from twenty-five institutions have received virtual training on basic and advanced topics in pediatric oncology nursing. Over 4500 children newly diagnosed with cancer received improved care through these institutions in 2022. WHO supported Nepal and Sri Lanka in developing treatment regimens for common childhood cancers and supportive care. WHO has also supported a model of care in Myanmar and Nepal whereby the capacity of facilities at lower level of care, closer to the patients' home, is enhanced thus enabling them to deliver a part of the treatment for childhood cancer. This has been seen to reduce the burden of treatment on families. They are also expected to contribute to early detection and referral. Shared care center network includes thirty-four facilities in Myanmar and five in Nepal. SEAR-CCN member institutions have worked together in developing resource guides for easy reference at the shared care centers. With WHO support eight countries have strengthened population-based cancer registry where childhood cancer has received a dedicated focus. Sri Lanka has established HBCR for childhood cancer.