When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and international collaborators at the United Nations (UN) in September 2018, it was a historic moment that signified a new day for childhood cancer on the global health stage. During a side event at the UN General Assembly, leaders of St. Jude, WHO and international partners announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer, an ambitious movement to increase the survival rate of six pediatric cancers to at least 60% by 2030.
Since launching the WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC) nearly five years ago, the effort has expanded to more than 70 countries. Among those are 36 focus countries, signifying an extra effort that includes a signed agreement with the Ministry of Health of each government. Among St. Jude Global’s roles in the GICC are serving as a technical advisor, working with the WHO to accelerate actions toward increased cure rates and better care in each country, and developing and implementing tools to monitor, evaluate and stimulate progress.
The WHO South-East Asia Region has three focus countries: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. In late June, a team from St. Jude Global joined key hospitals, agencies, and government representatives from Nepal, along with the WHO Country and Regional Offices and Headquarters and officials from other national and international non-governmental organizations, for the first workshop on childhood cancer held on a national level in Nepal. The advocacy workshop was an opportunity to gain buy-in and commitment to prioritize childhood cancer in the country.
In its role as the first and only WHO Collaborating Centre for Childhood Cancer, St. Jude provides technical support to the ongoing efforts in each participating GICC country to increase access to care, improve care quality, and integrate childhood cancer in national and global agendas. St. Jude provides subject matter expertise, assists in developing technical tools and packages, supports and coordinates workshops in focus countries, and facilitates ongoing discussions among national and international stakeholders, including efforts leading up to the recent National Workshop on Accelerating Nepal Childhood Cancer Initiative.
Nepal Minister of Health and Population Mohan Bahadur Basnet expressed his appreciation for the workshop and its attendees for bringing a collective commitment to improve the lives of children in the country through a special focus on childhood cancer.
“The knowledge shared, experiences and collaboration during this workshop will undoubtedly have resounding benefits. Through this workshop, we have witnessed invaluable discussions, profound insights, and groundbreaking ideas that have the potential to bring a childhood cancer cure in Nepal,” he said. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child in Nepal has access to timely and quality cancer care, irrespective of their socioeconomic background. The Ministry of Health and Population of the Nepal government is fully committed.”
The workshop also featured team members and long-term partners of St. Jude Global from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Peru to share their experiences implementing Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer activities as focus countries.
The workshop served as a platform for knowledge sharing, collaborative dialogues, and formulating strategies to accelerate efforts for children with cancer in Nepal. About 80 participants representing hospitals and stakeholders across Nepal, St. Jude Global leadership, WHO staff, NGOs including World Child Cancer, government officials and other stakeholders interested in improving the care of children with cancer and blood disorders participated.
“We value this opportunity now to extend collaborative efforts in Nepal,” said Catherine Lam, MD, Director of the St. Jude Global Asia Pacific Regional Program and Health Systems Unit and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Childhood Cancer director. “St. Jude is honored to continue to provide both technical and financial support for the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer, specifically here in Nepal, which has been in the very first wave of countries and only the third within Southeast Asia. This is a critical time, as we prepare to mark the fifth anniversary since we brought childhood cancer to the United Nations General Assembly for the first time and announced this Global Initiative to save one million more children by 2030. There is a lot that can be learned from the inspiring work in Nepal, thanks to the commitment of many local leaders and partners.”
The workshop had three objectives:
At the conclusion of the two-day workshop, participants crafted a list of recommendations, among them:
Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD, Executive Vice President, Department of Global Pediatric Medicine chair and St. Jude Global director, expressed gratitude to the gathering of regional and international colleagues with the pediatric hematology-oncology community of Nepal to focus on this shared vision for children.
“Here, with the Ministry of Health and the guidance of WHO and in partnership with many friends around the world, we have come together to form the village that children with cancer need to write their own brighter future,” he told the gathering. “It’s a better future for children with cancer and for their families. We look to great success in the years to come and the moment when people will look back and say, ‘How did they do it? Let’s learn from Nepal.’”