Cancer scare in Ethiopia

Wondu Bekele Woldemariam, (photo: Capital)

In the old days communicable diseases like TB were the main concern for Ethiopia but now time has changed; cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases are the biggest challenge in Ethiopia which claimed many thousands life per year. Cancer is one of the non communicable disease which require a big amount of money to treat it. But in countries like Ethiopia who have less physician and less hospitals combating cancer are even more challenging. Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society is established to give awareness on cancer and to help poor cancer victims when they are unable buy and cover their medical cost.

Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet talked with Wondu Bekele Woldemariam, Executive Director of Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society to learn more about Ethiopia’s cancer victims and their challenges. Excerpts.

Capital: Could you tell us how and why your society is established?

Wondu Bekele: My third and youngest son, Mathiwos, was born on June 17, 1999 in Addis Ababa. Until he celebrated his second birthday he was very healthy, energetic and his growth was corresponding to his age. A few days after celebrating his second birthday, he un-expectedly became very ill, and after clinical investigation he was diagnosed with ALL-type Leukemia.

He had been under treatment at Black Lion Hospital for 26 months. Due to lack of cancer medicines here in Ethiopia his family was forced to import from overseas almost all of the very expensive medicines that were recommended by his doctors.

After 22 months of comparative improvement, unexpectedly it was found out that the disease has relapsed, accordingly the Medical Board of the Hospital decided that there was no proper medication left for Mathiwos here in Ethiopia and refereed him to go abroad for possible Bone Marrow transplant which is not possible in Ethiopia.

After intensive search for overseas treatment possibilities in South Africa, Europe, India and North America, National Cancer Institute (NCI/NIH) of Bethesda, MD, USA agreed to accept Mathy for further treatment option including Bone Marrow transplant. Mathy accompanied by his mother and his elder brother, Yonas (donor) was about to fly to Washington D.C, U.S.A. All necessary conditions for the trip such as round trip air ticket, accommodation, visa, etc have been arranged. Before they leave, unfortunately, Mathiwos passed away on September 24, 2003, while he was under treatment at the Black Lion Hospital.

A group of people of different races and nationalities from three different continents, many of whom without knowing each other, tried together everything that is humanly possible to save Mathy’s life. Even though their concerted efforts couldn’t save Mathy’s life, the group, without being frustrated by the outcome, decided to strengthen and consolidate their efforts to honor him and his cause, and as a result established Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society/MWECS/.

The parents of Mathiwos believe forming a cancer society is their way to remember their beloved son and his cause, and to express their thanks to God for all the opportunities he gave them to help their son in every way humanly possible, leaving the rest to the will of God.

The Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society (MWECS) was established at the first General Assembly meeting of the founding members held on April 17, 2004.

Read more at: Capital