World Cancer Day: sharing the stories of people living with cancer in Ethiopia and Nepal

Author: Maia Olsen, NCD Synergies
February 4, 2018

On February 4th each year – World Cancer Day – the international community comes together to recognize and raise awareness of the burden that cancer poses globally and to recommit to a call to action to better address the impact of cancer across all areas of the world. It is imperative that there is greater and more equitable access to cancer treatment and care in order to reduce premature death and suffering, especially among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

On this year’s World Cancer Day, we have the honor of sharing the experiences of four people living with cancer in rural Ethiopia and Nepal, whose stories remind us why addressing the global equity gap and “Treatment for All” is an ideal we should all strive to achieve:

Fortuna Messaye, 14

Fortuna is 14 years old, living with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Fortuna first began to experience symptoms, she struggled to find an accurate diagnosis and care in her hometown. Thanks to support from the Mathios Wondu Cancer Society, Fortuna has been able to access chemotherapy and treatment. When she grows up, she hopes to be a doctor and take care of others in her community.

Babesh Tamang, 5, and his mother Muna

Babesh is 5 years old, living with stage 4 cancer in Kathmandu, Nepal. Babesh, along with his mother, Muna, moved to Kathmandu from eastern Nepal to seek treatment, as cancer care is not available in rural Nepal. Muna’s husband works abroad as a laborer and sends money home when he can; however, the family continues to face a growing burden of debt. In spite of these challenges, Muna continues to do everything she can to support her son and get him the care he needs.

Nigist Dageto, 35

Nigist lives in rural Ethiopia with her three children. When diagnosed with breast cancer, Nigist moved to Addis Ababa. Navigating her care while living in poverty has been challenging for Nigist as both a patient and caregiver for her family, especially as out-of-pocket expenses have continued to add up. The Mathios Wondu Cancer Society has supported her throughout her treatment, which has allowed her to access chemotherapy and surgical care over the last two years.

Wondu Bekele, community activist

Wondu is an incredible advocate for people living with cancer in Ethiopia. After losing a young son to Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Wondu founded the Mathios Wondu Cancer Society in his son’s name. The aim of the organization is to provide care, treatment and social support to women, children, and other vulnerable patients in Ethiopia to ensure that they have access to equitable care.


To learn more about advocacy around World Cancer Day and the “Treatment for All” campaign, please check out Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)’s campaign page and advocacy materials. To be a part of the conversation this week, follow @UICC, @ACSGlobal, @NCDSynergies, or other key players.

To learn more about the Advocacy Agenda for People Living with NCDs and the global “Our Views Our Voices” campaign supported by the NCD Alliance, please click here.

Voices of NCDI Poverty is a joint initiative of the NCD Synergies project at Partners In Health and the Lancet Commission on Reframing NCDs and Injuries for the Poorest Billion (NCDI Poverty). Voices of NCDI Poverty is a platform that shares the stories and experiences of people living with NCDs in lower resource settings. These narratives demonstrate the vast inequity in accessing treatment, care and social support faced by patients – especially women and children – living in settings of extreme poverty.