Over the past weeks, the ECCT Volunteer Team, has been out to 3 high density areas in Harare, Zimbabwe – Mufakose, Mbare and Hatcliffe – to spread the message of the “Sponsor a Zimbabwean Cancer Patient” campaign. ECCT’s mission is to financially assist marginalised cancer sufferers who cannot afford the exorbitant cancer treatment costs and our work takes us to the areas where our research has shown us that people need help the most.Our dedicated Volunteer Team (pictured above) all have experience in the Social/Community Work field in Zimbabwe; have worked with cancer sufferers and health care providers and share ECCT’s value of an open heart for marginalised cancer sufferers.
The application process to find the first 5 cancer patients who we are fundraising for and sponsoring with monthly prescription costs, up to 2 doctors’ consultation visits/month and half the annual fees for 1 school going child from January 2013, has now closed. You will hear and see the stories of the patients we are sponsoring on our website and blog by mid-August 2012, and subsequently at our Melbourne and Harare fundraisers to be held later this year.
Below is a group account of what our dedicated team saw as they went about the most important part of our work – meeting and making a personal impact on the lives of those we wish to help.
What was the general response to our campaign message which included informing people about cancer and the statistics confirmed by bodies such as the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, that cancer is the leading cause of death in the country?
Many people are not aware of how serious cancer is, including knowing little about symptoms and treatments of various cancers. The ones who did not know about it, gained knowledge about cancer due to someone close to them being diagnosed or passing away from cancer. Furthermore, some voiced concern with talking about it openly for fear of being stigmatized or discriminated against.
What is the current situation for many of the people you saw?
In areas like Mufakose and Mbare, most people are self employed & can afford at least one meal per day, but the question is are they eating enough, particularly with the high nutritional needs that cancer patients have? The biggest challenges for the people we spoke to are being able to buy medications, going for check ups & paying the doctors’ consultation fees.
In Hatcliffe, in which the majority live below the poverty line, we were saddened to see that due to high unemployment, many cannot afford food. The ones who are employed, mostly as street vendors, do not have sufficient income to buy medications and food for the family. This has forced some to go scavenging at the local dump sites, putting their health at even greater risk.
Clearly, ECCT has identified that there are several barriers to relieving the cancer burden for marginalised Zimbabweans cancer patients such as food shortages and unemployment. What further information can people who wish to help know about?
In order to provide more assistance, there is the need for sustainable,educative, self-help projects such as support groups, to bring hope and positive impacts to the patients. Although there are charity organisations assisting with food aid in Harare, they are not able to reach some of the people we spoke to who need help.
Other practical needs for marginalised cancer patients are the availability of more screening machines closer to their location. Currently, there are less than 5 machines in Zimbabwe.
What impacted you the most in your work on the ground?
The hardest thing for us was meeting families where the child is now head of the household because a parent is sick with cancer or where one or both parents have passed away from the disease. People still feel slightly ashamed to talk more openly about cancer and that is very frightening and sad because in most cases, it is because there is ignorance about the disease. In some cases, families have just lost hope.
One of the positive factors is that even though the situation is serious, we saw that by interacting with people and informing them about cancer and our campaign, they showed some faith that they are not forgotten.
*The ECCT will be officially launching its Sponsor a Zimbabwean Cancer Patient campaign with 2 fundraisers to be held in Melbourne and Harare later this year, with details to be announced soon. You can support our campaign by contacting us at email@example.com for further information. Those in Australia and the UK can also donate a set amount of USD$5 via mobile phone by texting the word, FIVE, to 19955666 (Australia) and 68899 (UK).