UP, Taj to ‘Go Gold’ for kids with cancer

UP, Taj to ‘Go Gold’ for kids with cancer

Lucknow, Aug 31 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav seems keen to wear a gold ribbon this September, even as the Taj and the state will ‘Go Gold’ for children with cancer.

“UP to Go Gold in association with Cankids — National NGO,” tweeted the Chief Minister when a group of childhood cancer survivors from the NGO met him recently.

However, since the Archaeological Survey of India refused permission to illuminate the Taj in gold, the colour that signifies childhood cancer, cancer survivors and the participants of a car rally in mid-September would tie a big gold ribbon on the Taj premises on September 25 to highlight the cause.

Also displayed would be huge cutouts of the Taj painted in gold.

“When the Taj goes Gold this September, the world will know that India cares about children with cancer and their families,” Cankids chairperson Poonam Bagai said.

The ‘GO Gold India’ campaign was launched on International Childhood Cancer Day, February 15, 2016, in over 55 cancer centres across the country, with a movement to ‘Light up Gold the Taj Mahal’ in September. This was part of an International Tribute Lighting Programme that honours the bravery and courage of every child and family faced with childhood cancer.

As part of the campaign, child cancer patients all over India also participated in an “I deserve the best treatment, care and support” poster competition.

Sumit Mehrotra, childhood cancer survivor and facilitation officer at Cankids, said: “Uttar Pradesh accounts for 8,000-10,000 new cases each year. Of these, not more than 1,500 are treated in Uttar Pradesh and, at best estimate, 2,000 manage to get treatment outside the state at cancer centres like AIIMS, Delhi, and Tata Medical Hospital, Mumbai.”

“The situation is critical. There is not one dedicated paediatric cancer centre in the entire state and there are only two paediatric oncologists. As a result, a majority of children have to travel outside the state, primarily New Delhi, for treatment. Childhood cancer mortality is 60-70 percent for Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

Bagai said: “Through our advocacy efforts in Uttar Pradesh we want to bring about a change in the life of children with cancer.”

She drew attention to efforts by Aditya and Priti Jhunjhunwala from Helping Hands charity who have built and donated a state of the art paediatric oncology ward at Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University Hospital.

“Their daughter was diagnosed with cancer and treated in the world’s leading centre for childhood cancer — St Jude, in Memphis, Tennessee,” she said.

Aditya Jhunjhunwala said: “She lost the battle to the disease as hers was an aggressive cancer, but received world class treatment, care and support. We wanted to give children from our own home state the same standard of care.”

Bagai said Cankids received a boost recently when Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Medical Education) Anup Pandey declared childhood cancer a health priority and, along with the Principal Secretary (Health), promised to set up a task force for a childhood cancer control plan and policy.

The proposal for a task force was floated during a Childhood Cancer Stakeholders Forum in Lucknow where Cankids made a presentation on “Change for Childhood Cancer in India and in Uttar Pradesh”.

According to Pandey, the state government was expanding cancer treatment facilities, including those for children, and in the coming times oncology facilities would improve further in Lucknow, Noida, Saifai and Gorakhpur. Other state government departments and district administrations have also come on board for ‘UP to Go Gold’ this September.

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