by LAUREN CODLING
BRITISH MUSLIMS have been urged to donate to causes overseas during Ramadan, as a leading charity revealed details of its work with young Bangladeshi cancer patients.
The UK charity, World Child Cancer (WCC), launched the Gift of Growing Up appeal in April. It aims to increase survival rates for patients in countries such as Bangladesh and to also help children who need support and accessible treatment.
Currently, in Bangladesh, the survival rate of children diagnosed with cancer is 10 per cent. In comparison, the UK survival rate is 80 per cent.
To mark the month of Ramadan, all donations made before June 30 will be doubled by the UK government – meaning all support goes twice as far for children with cancer around the world.
Arian, from Bangladesh, is currently receiving treatment at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), which is supported by WCC.
His father, Mahmud, said the family initially thought Arian was suffering from tonsillitis. They were shocked when they were told the three-year-old had been diagnosed with cancer.
“No parent expects to be told their child has cancer. Naarghita (Arian’s mother) did not know how to react,” Mahmud said. “What is a mother supposed to do when their child is suffering from this disease?
“I was very emotional. It was heart-breaking for us and we have been praying ever since that Arian can recover.”
The emotional strain has been tough for the family, but Mahmud revealed the financial pressure has exacerbated the situation. It is unclear how long Arian will stay in hospital, so his parents are concerned about the size of their medical bills.
While Naarghita stays in the hospital with Arian, Mahmud is forced to travel miles away so that he can continue to work and provide support for his family. “I have to buy medicines, go to work and try and be here for my family all at the same time,” he said. “I pray every day for our situation to improve.”
According to the charity, over 6,000 children are expected to develop cancer in Bangladesh this year. However, there are only six hospitals with facilities to care for children with the disease.
Teenager Adil is currently receiving treatment for blood cancer. The 13-year-old initially visited three different hospitals before receiving a diagnosis at BSMMU. An aspiring scientist, Adil misses his home and wants to go back to school.
“I want to help the world and be a good man in the future,” he said.
Shahena Ali is an ambassador for WCC. Her hope is that communities will donate to the appeal, as it can help children like Adil to have a future.
“Children can’t deal with this situation themselves. It is something we can help with, the gift of growing up, but also hope for the future and the strength to survive,” she told Eastern Eye.
Ali, who is of Bangladeshi heritage herself, has close ties to the country. She has visited hospitals on behalf of WCC to see first-hand the experiences of children and their families.
Describing a recent visit to a facility in Dhaka, the 41-year-old said it was “devastating” to see children as young as nine months old in such situations.
“Children being cared for were from very poor backgrounds. I found it so disheartening to see the deprivation some of them came from,” she told Eastern Eye. Ali recounted seeing families who travelled for miles to come to the hospital. Some children who were in a visibly unwell state were forced to make a five-hour journey to receive treatment.
Ali, from Essex, said British Asians often may not realise the amount of work that UK-based charities do to help projects in south Asian countries.
“(WCC’s cause) really resonated with me and I thought it was a much-needed area that has been overlooked,” Ali, who is a nutritional therapist, said. “There needs to be a lot more awareness out there.”
Ali has urged UK Muslims to donate to WCC during Ramadan. Traditionally, Muslims are obliged to give 2.5 per cent of their savings to a charity during the holy month.
“It would help enormously especially with this match scheme by the government,” Ali, a practising Muslim herself, said. “But it is also an opportunity for all Asian communities to get involved,” she added. “The work being done in developing countries such as Bangladesh needs to be broadcast.”
Donations to WCC before June 30 will be doubled by the UK government. Visit www.worldchildcancer.org/donate for details.