Nepal partners with WHO to bolster childhood cancer treatment access

Kathmandu: In a significant move aimed at enhancing access to essential childhood cancer medicines, the Ministry of Health and Population-Nepal has inked an agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) to join the Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines (GPACCM). This initiative, led by St Jude Global and WHO, seeks to address the critical need for lifesaving cancer medications in low- and middle-income countries.

As a member of the GPACCM platform, Nepal stands to benefit from the provision of 35 types of childhood cancer medicines, which will be supplied free of cost for a duration of four years. The WHO will extend technical assistance to bolster the country’s supply chain infrastructure and healthcare facilities, ensuring the efficient distribution of these vital medications.

UNICEF, serving as the procurement partner of the GPACCM Platform, will oversee the acquisition and delivery of medicines up to the port of entry, as outlined in the statement issued by WHO. The anticipated arrival of the first batch of medicines by the third quarter of 2024 heralds a significant step forward in Nepal’s efforts to combat childhood cancer.

These medicines will initially be allocated to four participating health institutions: Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, BP Koirala Cancer Hospital, Kanti Children’s Hospital, and Patan Hospital. The initiative aims to expand coverage to additional healthcare centers as the need arises in the future.

Dr. Rajesh Sambhajirao Pandav, WHO Representative to Nepal, underscored the importance of this collaboration in addressing the challenges hindering childhood cancer treatment in the country. With an estimated 900 children diagnosed with cancer annually in Nepal, the initiative holds promise in significantly improving treatment outcomes and alleviating the financial burden on affected families.

Dr. Roshan Pokhrel, Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population, hailed the agreement as a pivotal moment for Nepal, emphasizing the potential impact on childhood cancer treatment nationwide. He expressed openness to expanding provision to other hospitals based on evolving needs.

Nepal’s participation in the GPACCM platform underscores its commitment to the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), striving to achieve a 60% survival rate for children with cancer by 2030. Currently, survival rates in low- and middle-income countries lag significantly behind those in high-income countries, highlighting the urgency of concerted efforts to bridge this gap.