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Save some kids' lives in Africa - Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa

Save some kids' lives in Africa - Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa

Old Sep 18, 11, 8:10 pm
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Save some kids' lives in Africa - Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa

Largely because of knowledge and skills acquired through reading and contributing on FT (mileage management, round the world tickets, etc.) a few years ago my wife and I managed to travel to Africa, fulfilling a long-time goal.

Well, once bitten… And praise be to FF miles and FT knowledge, we've been able to go back pretty much every year for the past half-decade since, sometimes twice a year. We've focused on South Africa, but have spent a little time in Botswana and Zimbabwe also. We've explored most of SA, enjoyed the wonderful cities and the amazing, vital people we've met, gone on safari in various parts of the country… glorious.

But the year before last it changed. My wife volunteered to accompany some people she'd met working with PATH - the Seattle-based global health NGO (one of the Gates Foundation's principal contractors) as they visited a number of PATH-sponsored projects in Kenya. We flew on miles to South Africa, then she flew up to Nairobi to join the "tour."

In the course of her tour, she visited a children's hospital in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu, where she met some kids diagnosed with a type of cancer neither of us had heard of - Burkitt's lymphoma.

BL is a very common form of pediatric cancer in equatorial and eastern Africa. The disease appears to result from exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus, combined with (not certain on this part) simultaneous exposure to either malaria or HIV, or maybe both. Regardless, its victims are generally children (usually boys) between the ages of 7 and 13. BL is one of the fastest-growing cancers known. Untreated, it's invariably fatal.

But it's also a cancer that responds very well to chemotherapy. Kids who complete the proper chemo regimen (including follow-up treatment) have very high survival rates. The key is to (a) get the drugs to them and (b) see to it that the regimen is followed. In rural East Africa those are tall orders. In Kisumu, a local pediatrician (who now works with PATH on HIV and other challenges) tried to get some big pharmas to provide drugs at no or low cost; they did so for a few years, then they stopped. So the kids stopped being cured and started dying again.

My wife asked how many patients there were in western Kenya, and roughly how much would it cost to get them the drugs to save them. Around 200 kids per year, around $600 per kid to save their lives. Here's the email she sent that night.

Her background is in not-for-profit finance and management, not medicine or cancer treatment. Nevertheless, she did some fast lateral thinking, and came back to the US and got things moving.

In January 2010 she created a new charity called Burkitt's Lymphoma Kenya Fund. The IRS gave it a 501(c)(3) letter that April. By last December she'd raised around half a million dollars in contributions. By February she'd formed an alliance with Direct Relief to get the drugs at low or no cost. This spring BLKF sent out requests for proposals to start implementing treatment programs in Kenya and Uganda. The contracts were recently signed, and the first kids will start getting the meds sometime late this year or early 2012. Because our reach now extends to Uganda as well as Kenya (and Tanzania not far behind) the agency renamed itself Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa. www.blfundafrica.org

We have no paid staff, and all overhead is contributed. Every dollar that comes in goes to help save African kids. We have a board of directors that has horsepower to spare, and they're all totally committed to the aims of the agency. Our African and US partners are the A-team. We plan to use donated funds to build up an annuity approach, creating a funding flow to Africa that will be inflation-proofed and perpetual. With $4 or $5 million in the fund we can probably treat as many kids with BL in East Africa as we can find. But we're not waiting on having the whole nut in the bank. With amazing generosity on the part of many partners, we're starting NOW.

And the aim is not just to provide initial treatment, but to establish an infrastructure - follow-up, locally trained professionals and para-professionals, who can track the kids back to their villages, and make sure they get the full course of treatment. In places where the per-capita income is infinitesimal, we hope to use our funding to pay even for things like bus tickets to the clinics, or fuel and a motorcycle driver so that visiting health aides can get the drugs or the questionnaires to the villages.

It's not about research, it's not a drive-by or a short-term approach. It's all about treatment of sick kids, and of building a mechanism that will continue to find and treat the kids going forward.

Have a look at the website, send me a PM with questions or suggestions.

And thanks.


Last edited by Gardyloo; Sep 18, 11 at 10:16 pm
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Old Sep 18, 11, 10:18 pm
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This thread is a good place to discuss the issue and the solution. It sounds like your wife has found a Good Thing To Do.

Certainly BLFA has a running start, and I am sure it means a huge difference to kids in East Africa.

Last edited by JDiver; Sep 18, 11 at 10:25 pm
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Old Dec 6, 13, 9:05 pm
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What do Bill Nye, Desmond Tutu and Ann Curry have in common?

Answer - they all contributed recipes to BLFA's new "Global Potluck" cookbook. Get yours at http://blfundafrica.org/cookbook.html .

100% of the proceeds from the sale of each cookbook goes to fund cancer treatment programs sponsored by Burkitts Lymphoma Fund for Africa.

To date (26 months after disbursing our first grant funds) BLFA has funded treatment for more than 465 pediatric cancer patients in Kenya and Uganda. Starting in 2014, we expect BLFA's funding to help provide treatment for 375 pediatric cancer patients, annually. Our partners report a treatment cost of less than $500 per patient. This lower cost is in large part due to drug donations and ongoing program efficiencies.

Buy a cookbook and help save kids' lives in East Africa. Or write to us at [email protected] for more information. www.blfundafrica.org
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