Artists offer child cancer patients hope with Erbil fundraiser

Families of children with cancer were overjoyed by the generous support they received at Sunday’s “Buy to Heal” fundraiser, held to mark World Cancer Day and raise funds to pay for expensive medications. Mawlud Ahmed, whose son Mustafa has cancer, hailed the auction and art sale, which took place at the Saad Abdullah Palace Conference Center in Erbil.

“This is a very good and sacred thing. It is worth praising. The funds raised in the event will help us 100 per cent,” Ahmed told Rudaw. “We can afford to treat ourselves when we are sick, but we cannot afford to treat long-lasting diseases like cancer, as the medicine for such diseases is very high.”

The Kurdistan Region’s financial crisis, along with regional conflict, has limited access to life saving medication needed by cancer patients, which often causes financial hardship for many families. Hosted by the Global Shapers Erbil Hub and Babylon FM in collaboration with the Nanakali Hospital and the Japanese Iraqi Medical Organization, the fundraiser featured paintings by local artists and children with cancer, food and handmade crafts.

All proceeds are being donated to child cancer patients at Nanakali Hospital. Avin Saman, a local artist, was asked to sit down with a young cancer patient and collaborate on a painting for the event. “I asked a cancer patient ‘What do you want to paint?’ He said ‘I want to paint the moon because the moon enlightens darkness and it may also enlighten my life,’” Saman told Rudaw.

Another contributor to Sunday’s event was Kanny Ahmadi, a shoe designer whose unique and colorful Luminous Spring designs were on sale. She told Rudaw why she took part. “My shoes are here for sale for the benefit of Nanakali Hospital, 100 per cent of the profit is going to them. I hope people will buy them and we can be a part of helping cancer kids,” she said. 

“I lost my uncle to cancer, and one of my cousins, when she was very young, she had cancer, but now she’s fine, she survived, and she’s a pretty young woman now. We faced this [struggle], so I really understand. And I love kids – that was an excuse for me.” Saman highlighted the health challenges facing the Kurdistan Region. 

“We need a lot of things in Kurdistan, not only help treating cancer. We have other ill people, stocks of medication are very low, we are not receiving good services, and I hope this will be resolved soon.” “When someone buys my shoes, it’s very little, it will not affect their income, but it will be very helpful to the people of Erbil who need support and services,” she added. 

Global Shapers Erbil curator Eman Ibrahim, who coordinates the charity’s cancer support center, described the valuable work of her volunteers who help families touched by cancer get access to expensive medicines and even help fund treatments abroad. “We started by opening a cancer support center in the region to support the families going through this challenge, to help them mentally,” Ibrahim told Rudaw. 

“Until now we have fundraised a large amount of money using social media alone, and we’ve sent five kids to Turkey to perform PET scans. Also we’ve sent one of the patients, using social media awareness, to India to perform surgery.” “Lately the challenges have been a lack of medication coming to the region, so these families really do have a lot of challenges. If the hospital can’t provide them with medication, we do that. We have contact with pharmacies,” she added. 

Sunday’s arts and crafts sale will allow Global Shapers to expand their work into addressing the mental strains on children and families fighting cancer. Ibrahim hopes the charity can also develop its educational projects for kids missing out on school during treatment. “What comes next is to provide more mental support. We’ve started with book reading sessions, mental support services for patients and families of patients, next will come yoga classes, educational classes – for example we’ve had English classes which were really amazing, they made the children feel really good,” said Ibrahim. 

“They are out of school because of their disease, so in this activity we really got positive feedback, even from the families of the patients. We will do more of these educational activities with the support of the public.” 

According to the KRG ministry of health, there were 4,808 reported cancer cases in the Kurdistan Region in 2017 – a rate of 92 cases in every 100,000 people. Of these, 905 were cases of breast cancer. As these are only the reported cases, it is possible the figure is actually higher. A rate of 300 cases in every 100,000 is considered high on the worldwide scale, while a rate of 100 in every 100,000 is considered low. 

by Robert Edwards 

Editors note: For further information on living with cancer, please check out the websites of Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie Cancer Care.



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