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Mwanawetu Saidi’s pain began with a toothache and stomach cramps. Her worried parents took the ten-year-old girl to a local clinic near their home in the village of Tundu, on the coast of Tanzania, for treatment. Staff at the clinic did not recognize the symptoms of the childhood cancer, Burkitt’s Lymphoma (BL), which strikes hundreds of children in Tanzania each year. BL can cause swelling of the jaw, eyes, face, and abdomen and is a very aggressive cancer that is fatal if not treated promptly.
One month after the onset of her pain, large tumors had grown in Mwanawetu’s mouth, jaw and cheek. “We had never seen such a condition in our village and so we were scared and worried that we would lose her,” said Mwanawetu’s mother. Finally, Mwanawetu was referred to Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Tanzania. After the 12-week cycle of chemotherapy, her tumor had disappeared.
IMA partners with ORCI to fight this cancer through our BL Treatment Program. The program benefits from funding from United Services Foundation, Walk for Life, Week of Compassion, Alternative Gifts International, and many individual donors. It provides access to chemotherapy drugs, and diagnosis and case management training to health care facilities. We work with health care professionals to strengthen their skills to diagnose and treat BL, and during 2009 trained more than 350 health care workers.
We also work to raise awareness of the disease in the community and inform parents that treatment is available. Thanks to the knowledge and skills of the health care providers at ORCI, Mwanawetu is now a happy and healthy child.
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