Thematic file

Fighting against childhood cancer in low-resource countries

Each year, over 175,000 children have to struggle with cancer and 90,000 of them die from it. To improve survival in developing countries, we have developed an ambitious program entitled ‘My Child Matters’.

Often known as a rich-country disease, cancer in fact kills more people in developing countries. Yet another injustice is that a child diagnosed in a developed country has an 80% chance of surviving for five years, while the rate in countries with limited resources is on average 20% and this can fall to 10% in the least developed countries. Yet the five most common forms of cancer in children are those for which there are effective treatments. On the basis of this data, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation decided to forge an unprecedented alliance with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to attempt to overcome these disparities.


An exemplary public-private partnership

Developed by the Foundation team and rolled out with the UICC, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (USA) and other partner organizations, the ‘My Child Matters’ program combines financial support, aid from international experts, and a network to improve every aspect in the healthcare value chain, including information and awareness-raising among communities and authorities, training qualified personnel, early diagnosis, access to healthcare, including the still underdeveloped fields of pain treatment and palliative care, and psychological support for children, families and caregivers.


Global expertise to support local initiatives

Since 2006, five calls for project proposals have been launched in 26 countries. A Steering Committee chaired by Professor Raul Ribeiro, Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Division at St Jude Research Hospital, brings together global experts on childhood cancer and infant healthcare. In addition to financial assistance, the Committee assigns a “mentor” to each team whose project is selected. Annual reviews assess the impact of the program and its potential for leveraging health policies in the countries concerned.


7 years later

40 programs in 26 countries

Each program has had a double impact - local and national. To help strengthen the healthcare system and influence public health policies in the countries concerned, the projects were rolled out in three domains – highlighting childhood cancers, boosting local capacity and skills, and reducing mortality to the levels found in richer countries. In all, these programs supported 38,700 children and helped train 9,700 healthcare workers. A new three-year action plan has been decided on, focusing on three priorities: better support and evaluation for projects in 15 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America; backing for inter-regional networks, and promoting further advocacy with the UICC so that one day child cancer will become a genuine public health priority.

Our programs have clearly demonstrated how effective they can be. People have finally recognized the cause of these children and it can now be defended at the highest international level.

“In limited income countries, there is little awareness of cancer. It is diagnosed too late, there is no effective infrastructure to provide support, and when treatments are started, they are quickly abandoned. The partnership we have engaged with the Sanofi Espoir Foundation is exemplary – a tremendous demonstration of what can be accomplished when we set up proper procedures for advancing the cause of children struck by cancer. For example, we were able to show that the project is not as expensive as people think. Some programs need only a few tens of thousands of euros to achieve very significant outcomes and make a lasting impact. We believe that if this initiative was scaled up to an unprecedented level, it would inspire many others.”

Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)


Focus on 3 ‘My Child Matters’ programs

The Philippines