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Ethiopia currently has no pediatric cancer registry or other data to assess the nationwide pediatric cancer burden.

Estimates from neighboring Tanzania, however, project that Ethiopia will face as many as 6,000-8,000 new cases of pediatric cancer each year.

In 2011, working under the banner of INCTR USA, Dr. Aziza Shad and Mary Louise Cohen formed a partnership among the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, Addis Ababa University, Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital (TASH) and Georgetown University Hospital to develop the first-ever program dedicated to the treatment of pediatric cancers in Ethiopia. At that time, there were no trained pediatric oncology doctors or nurses working in the country.

In 2012, our pediatric cancer program in Ethiopia officially launched at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital (TASH) in Addis Ababa to train the country’s first pediatric oncologists. Highlights of our achievements during our partnership at TASH include:

  • The first hospital unit in Ethiopia’s history dedicated to the treatment of pediatric cancer.
  • Ethiopia’s inaugural pediatric cancer fellowship program, designed to provide local doctors the training and tools to become qualified pediatric hematologists/oncologists, including a combination of out-of-country and web-based training and substantial specialty instruction on-site at TASH by world-renowned pediatric cancer specialists.
  • Specialized instruction for nursing staff in pediatric hematology/oncology care, including substantial training in chemotherapy preparation and infection control.
  • Out-of-country trainings for members of TASH’s pathology and pharmacy departments, which led to the opening of the hospital’s first oncology pharmacy and a comprehensive upgrading its pathology capacity.
  • The provision of essential chemotherapy drugs that are not available at TASH.
  • The provision of a bio-safety cabinet for installation on the pediatric cancer unit to ensure the safe mixing and handling of chemotherapy.
  • A partnership with Mother Teresa’s House, a beautiful full-service compound outside Addis Ababa, to house, feed, and school 35 patients receiving out-patient treatment and their accompanying family members.
  • A partnership with a local parent support group, TAPCCO, to provide transportation services between Mother Teresa’s and TASH, as well as funding for psychologists, infection control officers, and other family supports for patients and their families that have markedly reduced the incidence of treatment abandonment and provided psycho-social care during hospitalizations.
  • The opening of a new outpatient cancer center in 2016 that has significantly increased the number of children with cancer that can receive treatment at TASH.

The graduate of our fellowship class at TASH, Dr. Daniel Hailu Kefeni, now heads the Department of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the hospital, and had has become a leading advocate for pediatric cancer care in the country.