Jimma medical center pediatric oncology unit started to give its first ever chemotherapy administration

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Jimma medical center pediatric oncology unit started to give its first ever chemotherapy administration to children with Cancer on august 11, 2016. Almost 570 children with counter have treated during these five years. Some of the children survived from their cancers! 

Our History

Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Jimma University (JU) and The Aslan Project (The Aslan) in 2015 to establish Pediatric oncology program in Jimma University specialized Hospital. The primary goal of the collaboration was to develop a model for a sustainable change to advance the cure for children with cancer in Ethiopia (http://www.aslanproject.org/). The strategy for achieving this goal was based on four main activities: local capacity building in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric oncology nursing, oncology pharmacy, and pathology; establishment of separate pediatric cancer unit; procurement of medications and supplies; and an accurate data collection process. The hospital had no prior experience diagnosing or treating children with cancer before the opening of the Program.

In May 2016, under the direction of its full-time Clinical Director resident in Jimma, Aslan launched a two-year fellowship program in pediatric hematology/oncology, beginning with a fellow from Nairobi, Kenya, who has since graduated and returned to her home institution and later joined by fellow from Jimma in October 2016.

An even more historic step in the development of the JMC pediatric cancer program occurred on August 11, 2016, when it’s POU opened and the first ever dose of a chemotherapeutic agent was administered in Jimma. Although this was “one small step” for that child, it was “one giant leap” for the Jimma and surrounding population as a whole, as by its fifth year anniversary, the unit had diagnosed and cared for 570 children with cancer.

Achievements from our journey during the first five year:
Functioning pediatric oncology unit has established with  core team consisting of one pediatric oncologist, around 13 dedicated nurses, 5 pharmacists and other supportive
Our program created an opportunity for our community to fight their childrens` cancer than just taking their dying children home helplessly. Before the establishment of this program all children came to our hospital and suspected to have cancer were being referred to Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital (TASH). For myriads of socioeconomic reasons most of the families were not taking their children to Addis for treatment but they were helplessly going back to their home.
From the scratch or zero experiences, our team currently built experiences of diagnosing childhood cancer, administering chemotherapy drugs and providing other support cares for children with cancers.

Major Challenges
Most the children came at advanced stages of diseases which is very difficult to treat and cure in our resource constrained setting.
High rate of treatment abandonment among those who diagnosed and started treatment
 Frequent interruption of vital chemotherapy and other  drugs like essential antibiotics. This put patients at high risk of relapsing or progression of their diseases as well as dying from infection
Lack of antibiotic stewardship  including blood culture to choose appropriate antibiotics for infection
Inconsistent blood and blood product, specially platelets
Lack of advanced pathology needed for this era like Immunohistochemistry and flow cytometer which are critically need to accurately establish the type of cancer type. Right diagnosis is the first step for right treatment.
Lack of space for day care clinic for patient on follow up care
Lack of convenient guest house for family and their children
Lack of interested Pediatrician to join the Fellowship

Opportunities for improvement
Raising the awareness of  primary health care and the public to foster early diagnosis
Create reliable supply chin system to minimize drug interruption and death from relapse or disease progression
Strengthen the blood bank to insure the continuous availability of blood and blood products.
Strengthening microbiology service to improve the treatment of infection in children with cancer
Establish Modern pathology to improve the diagnosis of childhood cancer