CHICAGO, IL – Children’s Place International has named F. Chite Asirwa, MD as the 2018 Hero Award recipient for his pioneering work in treating children and adults with cancers in Kenya. The announcement coincides with the observance of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month during September.
The award will be presented at Children’s Place International’s annual Place the Hope event in Chicago on October 18th. The event will recognize Dr. Asirwa’s numerous achievements while raising funds to help Kenyan children with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a particularly virulent and treatable form of pediatric cancer, to access treatment.
“International resources tend to focus on infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, but in reality the lack of access to high quality care for people with cancer is one of the greatest health crises facing people living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said James McAuley, MD, Children’s Place International Board Member and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Country Director for Zambia.
“Few of us could imagine what it would be like to have our child diagnosed with a curable cancer but not have access to care,” Dr. McAuley stated. “Dr. Asirwa’s work not only provides care and hope to children and their families, it also trains others to help meet this massive health resource need throughout the region,“ he added. “One’s geographical location or financial status should not determine how long you live after a cancer diagnosis, especially in pediatric cancers like Burkitt’s that are highly curable,” stated Dr. Asirwa. “The Children’s Place International Hero Award is both humbling and inspiring,” he added. “This affirms to those tirelessly giving cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa that their efforts are not in vain.”
In Kenya, approximately 19% of children survive cancer versus an estimated 80% of children in high income countries. Poor access to care – owing to the absence of specialists, financial constraints, transportation and lack of awareness of symptoms among clinicians and the public presents the greatest barrier to improving outcomes. Under Dr. Asirwa’s leadership as Field Director of the Oncology and Hematology Program at AMPATH, a consortium of North American universities led by Indiana University, in collaboration with Kenya’s Moi University, the number of pediatric and adult patients receiving cancer treatment in Western Kenya has grown from just 400 patients in 2011 to 10,000 patients in 2017.
A hematologist and medical oncologist, Dr. Asirwa has made many contributions that advance access to cancer treatment, including direct clinical care for cancer patients, building Kenyan and sub-Saharan African capacity to address cancer through oncology education and training, as well as leading and participating in numerous research studies. Through Children’s Place International’s Healthcare Partners for Access initiative, Dr. Asirwa and AMPATH are currently collaborating with a team from Takeda Pharmaceuticals to establish a program to address Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Burkitt’s lymphoma in the region. Survival rates in high income countries for children diagnosed and treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma exceeds 80%.
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Children’s Place International brings together leading child-serving organizations in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean with skilled volunteers and philanthropists in the U.S. to implement programs that unlock the incredible potential of children and youth in low income countries. Its focus is on health and educational initiatives that empower children, youth and young adults to make a difference in their families, communities, countries and the world. This past year Children’s Place International and partners implemented programs in Haiti, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, supporting the healthy development of thousands of children and youth. For more information, please visit childrensplaceinternational.org.