The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented health crisis in all socio-economic regions across the globe. While the pandemic has had a profound impact on access to and delivery of health care by all services, it has been particularly disruptive for the care of patients with life-threatening noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as the treatment of children and young people with cancer.
The reduction in child mortality from preventable causes over the last 50 years has seen childhood cancer emerge as a major unmet health care need. Whilst survival rates of 85% have been achieved in high income countries, this has not yet been translated into similar outcomes for children with cancer in resource-limited settings where survival averages 30%. Launched in 2018, by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC) is a pivotal effort by the international community to achieve at least 60% survival for children with cancer by 2030.
The WHO GICC is already making an impact in many countries but the disruption of cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to set back this global effort to improve the outcome for children with cancer, wherever they may live.
As representatives of the global community committed to fostering the goals of the GICC, we applaud the WHO response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular we support the WHO’s call to ensure the needs of patients with life threatening NCDs including cancer are not compromised during the pandemic. Here, as collaborative partners in the GICC, we highlight specific areas of focus that need to be addressed to ensure the immediate care of children and adolescents with cancer is not disrupted during the pandemic; and measures to sustain the development of cancer care so the long-term goals of the GICC are not lost during this global health crisis.