The global burden of children’s cancer falls disproportionately on children living in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Annually 200,000 children are diagnosed with cancer, and of these, 80% live in LMICs. In High Income Countries (HICs), the treatment of pediatric cancer is largely viewed as a success story, with survival rates averaging 80%. By contrast, in LMICs the survival rate averages just 20%. However, with concentrated and coordinated efforts, some LMICs have been able to raise their survival rates to those nearly equal to those in HICs.
The photographs in this series are part of a larger documentary photography and film project titled ‘How I Live With Cancer’. ‘How I Live’ is being created in close partnership with Persistent Productions and the Dana Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer Center and aims to chronicle the healthcare systems – and the patients being treated within the pediatric oncology units — in LMICs that are closing the survival gap between LMICs and HICs around the world.
This selection of images features patients and their families being treated at the children’s cancer hospital Unidad Nacional de Oncologia Pediatrica (UNOP).
UNOP was founded in Guatemala City, Guatemala in 2000. At the time of its founding the survival rate of children with cancer in Guatemala was less than 25%. After 15 years of operation, UNOP has raised this survival rate to 65%. UNOP provides cancer treatment to patients free of charge as well as paying for the patients’ transportation costs to/from the hospital if the patients’ family is unable to do so. With 90% of UNOP’s patients coming from families whose monthly incomes are USD$200, these financial subsidies are critical parts of UNOP’s holistic approach to treatment and to its success.
The global cancer burden is set to increase, and the number of people of all ages living with cancer worldwide is expected to rise from 12.7 million in 2008 to an estimated 22.2 million by 2030. And 90% of this anticipated increase will be from people living in LMICs. With this escalation on the horizon it will be critical to look at institutions within LMICs, like UNOP, that have had success in increasing survival rates.