Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of the Friends of Cancer Patients Society (FoCP), the International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, has launched the International Childhood Cancer Fund to support children with cancer worldwide.
The fund, the first of its kind in the world, is launched in cooperation with the UICC, and aims to save the lives of many of the 90,000 children who die of cancer each year. The fund will collect donations and provide financial support for awareness campaigns, provide healthcare and treatment, and fund emergency relief projects to provide care to children with cancer.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi announced the donation of $1 million through The Big Heart Foundation, to be the fund’s first revenue. Her Highness expressed her delight to be launching the International Childhood Cancer Fund, and said: ”The fund will help alleviate the suffering of many children, especially those in low and middle-income countries which result in the deaths of eight children per 10 diagnosed with cancer, contributing to saving the lives of 30,000 children a year”. “The major challenge in combating childhood cancer is the difficulty of determining risk factors that require medical intervention, unlike cancers in adults, which can be detected through awareness programs and medical checkups.” Her Highness added.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi said, “What is the value of money if it is not used to prevent human suffering? Would not our lives become more beautiful when our children are safe and well and have access to better healthcare? International solidarity is essential to reduce child mortality and give them the opportunity to enjoy life. This requires substantial financial resources and government and community support and increasing support for healthcare systems, particularly in the area of children’s tumors, so as to contribute to reducing mortality rates to 40-50%. This would be a big achievement and should be the main focus for us all.”
According to figures, childhood cancer is a significant factor in child mortality causing an estimated 90,000 deaths per year. In high-income countries, cancer is the second leading cause of death among children aged 5-14 years. Although five year survival rates for children with cancer in high income countries does exceed 90%, in low income countries five year survival rates can fall to as low as 10%. About 176, 000 children with cancer are diagnosed annually worldwide. If affordable and appropriate treatment is provided early most childhood cancer cases can be cured.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi said, “The fall in child cancer deaths is normally associated with strong healthcare systems, which can detect cancer early, diagnose it accurately and provide effective treatment. In this way childhood cancer can be cured by providing immediate and necessary treatment. Equal access to treatment, care and support for children with cancer is an important human right and must be on the agenda of health and humanitarian organisations at the international level, simply because cancer does not discriminate between children in one country or another. Any child of any age, anywhere in the world, can be struck by this deadly disease. Every effort must be made to increase survival rates in countries where people do not have sufficient financial resources for early detection and treatment.”
The International Childhood Cancer Fund was launched two weeks after Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi visited Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (CCHE 57357) in Cairo, the largest pediatric cancer hospital in the Arab region, and called for free treatment, healthcare and psychological support to all children with cancer worldwide. Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher has said she has made it her mission to reduce the suffering of children with cancer and mitigate the pain for their families and the burden on society and is in ongoing discussions with the UICC to find effective ways to do so.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi called on all authorities, organizations and institutions around the world to support the fund and to be active contributors to the survival of more children. She added that the UICC are ideal partners for the fund due to its professionalism and long experience in working with top scientists, doctors and researchers around the world to reduce cancer mortality worldwide.
The UICC President, Professor Tezer Kutluk expressed his appreciation for the work of Her Highness. He said, “We at UICC congratulate Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi for her dedication to children with cancer and are delighted to work with her and FoCP on this important initiative. As a paediatric oncologist, I am aware of the many challenges facing children with cancer around the world, particularly those from poorer backgrounds who have limited access to health infrastructure. While we have many effective treatments for childhood cancer that have raised survival rates significantly over the last 50 years, it is of great concern that these treatments are not available or accessible to so many children.”
Dr Cary Adams, UICC Chief Executive, also expressed gratitude for Her Highness’s contribution. He said, “Her Highness’ commitment to our vision where all children, no matter where they live, are given the best opportunity to survive cancer is highly commendable. Through her support we will be able to reinforce the strong civil society movement and advocate for greater attention to childhood cancer. In the poorest parts of the world, even if children with cancer are referred to appropriate services, they are often diagnosed very late. This inequality in access to timely diagnosis, treatment and care is unacceptable. For many families, the costs of childhood cancer are simply unaffordable and families often have to make heartbreaking decisions around treatment for their child.”
During the ceremony, the UICC President and UICC Chief Executive honoured Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi for her efforts over the years in fighting against childhood cancer worldwide, and helping to alleviate the suffering of the children with cancer.
The International Childhood Cancer Fund will be managed by the UICC and build on its ‘CHICA’ childhood cancer programme which will offer annual awards in three categories, the first of which is fellowships, which are aimed at policy makers to promote leadership capacity for developing and overseeing childhood cancer control plans. The fellowships will also support implementation research in treatment and care, as well as strengthen monitoring, follow-up and evaluation.
The second category is the CHICA Campaign awards, which will be given to innovative campaigns that promote a public health approach to childhood cancer in the context of child health and uncommunicable diseases. Funded campaigns will be linked to National Cancer Control plans and endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
The third award will be allocated for the CHICA Programme Capacity Building which will focus on the quality, scale up and sustainability of childhood cancer programmes and services and their integration into existing child and adolescent health programmes at national level.
The three awards will have the support and endorsement of the Ministries of Health in relevant countries as a pre-requisite for funding. Besides the fund awards, one-off emergency relief projects will also be managed by UICC on behalf of Her Highness. The UICC will appointment an advisory committee comprised of six experts in childhood cancers, with experience in fighting cancer in developing countries, in addition to one health expert. It will also form the fund’s work team to work closely with the Advisory Committee and is also tasked with the submission of periodic reports to the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) in the UAE.
The fund was launched on Tuesday May 26th during an event held in the presence of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi and Prof Tezer Kutluk, President of UICC, Dr Cary Adams, UICC Chief Executive, and a number of UICC members. The event was also attended by Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), HE Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Etienne Krug, Director Department of Management of NCD at WHO, in addition to UICC board members in Geneva, Switzerland, and a number of specialists and representatives from cancer societies from around the world.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi was accompanied by HE Ameera BinKaram, President of Board of Trustees and a founding member of FoCP, Sawsan Jaafar and Noha Safar, board members of FoCP, Noura Al Noman, Director General of Her Highness Executive Office, and Erum Mazhar, Advisor at Her Highness Executive Office.
In June 2013, the Board of Directors of the UICC named Her Highness the official International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration and the first WCD International Ambassador for Pediatric Cancer in the world. The honour comes in recognition of Her Highness’ outstanding efforts at both the local and international level and her significant contribution towards cancer control, which includes the launch of initiatives aimed at raising public awareness about the risk and symptoms of cancer and the importance of early detection, and providing best methods of treatment and care for patients as well as their families.
Over the past two years, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher carried out a range of activities and visits in support of children with cancer across the world. In 2013, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher visited the Children’s Cancer Centre of Lebanon; an affiliate of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the USA, where she presented a library of children’s books to the hospital. Through FoCP, which was established by Sheikha Jawaher in 1999, Her Highness linked the UICC childhood cancer programme with an important initiative launched in 2007 called ‘Salam Ya Seghar’, a fund to improve the education, health, and welfare of Palestinian children.
In April 2014, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher participated in the 11th African Conference of International Society for Paediatric Oncology, which was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in collaboration with UICC and International Society for Pediatric Oncology. During her participation, Sheikha Jawaher called for developing international strategies as an integral part of the overall programmes to control cancer and non-communicable diseases in various countries across the world, with a special focus on the low and middle income countries.
In September 2014, Her Highness visited Presbyterian Cancer Hospital in New York, an affiliate of the medical center of the University Colombia, where she launched her international initiative the ‘Heroes Bag’. This initiative presents children with cancer with special bags containing books, toys, and other gifts to bring them happiness and joy and help alleviate their suffering.