The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will open its doors to unwell children later this year.

Within its facilities will be a specialist oncology ward, which has been funded by Islamic Relief.

Childhood cancer is on the rise in Southern Africa. According to the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation, one in 600 children in South Africa is affected by cancer before the age of 16, and more than 40 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer never reach a specialist treatment centre.

Globally, the survival rate of children with cancer is between 70-80 per cent, depending on the type of cancer. In South Africa, the rate is 50 per cent.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, which is in Johannesburg, South Africa, is Mr Mandela’s lasting wish for the children of Africa. No child will be turned away from the hospital because their family cannot pay for treatment.

When completed, it will be a 200-bed hospital that will not only provide specialist care for children, but will build capacity through training and research.

State-of-the-art care

Islamic Relief is a major donor for the hospital’s oncology unit, which will feature bone marrow transplant facilities and a laboratory, surgery and theatres for tumour surgery, intensive care and high care beds, a dedicated pharmacy and a radiology facility.

Aflak Suleman, partners’ relations manager for Islamic Relief, has been overseeing the funding for the hospital. He said: “It has been brilliant seeing progress on the construction of the hospital. In less than a year, it will be operational, and children who would otherwise not have access to this level of care will be able to come into a safe, clean environment that is clinically sound. Cancers are terrible diseases that affect vast numbers of people. As today is World Cancer Day, it is appropriate to reflect on ways we can assist children facing this difficult diagnosis.”

Planning for the hospital began seven years before construction. Launching the public campaign to raise money in 2013, Professor Keith Bolton, lead clinician for Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, talked about the need of strengthening care for children with more complex illnesses and diseases.

He said: “We were asked how we could develop a children’s hospital that would be a living legacy to Madiba and how we could organise it and what we needed…

“Tertiary [specialised care] care has fallen off the table a little bit and so we said what we need to do is strengthen the care for children who have more complex diseases and who need a more sophisticated form of care.”

The hospital is due to open in December.