9 of 10 Kenyan children diagnosed with cancer likely to die

  • About 39,000 Kenyans get cancer every year
  • Over 27,000 people die from cancer every year translating to over 75 people a day
  • The country has approximately less than 20 specialist oncologists to attend to the huge number of patients
  • 9 out of 10 Kenyan children diagnosed with the disease are likely to succumb
  • In developed countries averagely 7 out of 10 children diagnosed with the disease survive
  • Philanthropist Tobby Tanser is seeking support to build the first Children’s cancer hospital in Kenya
  • Kenya has no national childhood cancer registry and relies on a hospital based registries

Nine out of ten children diagnosed with cancer in Kenya are likely not to survive.

National Cancer Institute boss Alfred Karagu receiving a T-shirt from Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation Manager Carol-Waweru. Photo: NCI.


Statistics by Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations (KNCO) have shown this worrying trend.

The trend underlines the importance and urgency of making the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) fronted by President Uhuru Kenyatta operational.

The worrying statistics are attributed to limited access to healthcare by patients especially those in rural areas and COVID-19 pandemic has not made things better.

Other factors contributing to the grim statistics include limited number of specialists, few treatment centres, high cost of drugs and low awareness in management of the diseases by clinicians.

According to the statistics Kenya has about only 12 oncologists expected to take care of over 39,000 new cancer patients every year.

The country’s situation concerning children with cancer is a close inverse of the situation in developed countries where averagely three out of ten children diagnosed with cancer die.

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Cancer Hospital for Children

Toby Tanser Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shoe4Africa Foundation whose major focus is to increase access to quality healthcare by children says Kenya needs to counter this situation urgently.

“We need to join hands and reverse this situation before it escalates further, there is need for a modern cancer hospital specifically for children because they are invisible at the moment,” Tanser says.

Tanser was instrumental in raising over 10 million US Dollars to build the 150-bed-children’s hospital at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), the first public children’s hospital in East and Central Africa.

Shoe 4 Africa Children’s Hospital at MTRH Eldoret. Photo: Shoe4Africa Org

“We lose nine out of ten of children diagnosed with cancer in Kenya while in the US only one child dies.

“This means if we deliberately invest in programmes to counter cancer deaths we will reverse the situation, it needs all of us,” said Tanser.

Tanser wants to embark on raising money to build the first public children’s cancer facility in Africa.

“A children’s cancer hospital is what I want for Kenya and Africa, it is a sure way to ensure children from poor families and have cancer can be treated,” he added.

He said the situation was dire and needed urgent intervention because the current medical bills are prohibitive even to the middle class.

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Appeal for help to build Children’s Cancer Hospital

Tanser called on the Kenyan government, private organisations, athletes and well-wishers across the globe to support his upcoming initiative of having a public Cancer Children’s Hospital in Kenya.

His sentiments were echoed by MTRH CEO Dr Wilson Aruasa who acknowledged that cancer treatment among children has not been given significant attention.

Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital is currently hosting more children than the capacity. Photo: Shoe4Africa.Org

The situation needs to be turned around, he said.

“Cancer is becoming common among children but there has been little focus to devise means of mitigating the situation.

The children’s hospital here is hosting over 171 patients yet its capacity is 150 which points out there is a very high demand of children’s healthcare provision,” said Aruasa.

Dr Aruasa said there needs, not only increased space for children in general hospitals, but also a special hospital where all needs of children can be met effectively.

This will hasten their recovery and improve management of chronic ailments thus reduced mortality he says.

“There is hope though because the government intends to set apart 240 beds for children in the first phase of the new 2000-bed-referral hospital where construction works will begin soon. We hope to get 200 more beds for children in the second phase,” he said.

The referral hospital is set to cost the government over KSh 50 billion.

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According to Aruasa the high demand for children healthcare is occasioned by the high number of patients that stream into the country from as far as South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

KNCO statistics also indicate that 27,000 people die from cancer every year which is an average of 74 people every day.

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