Press Release – Remembering Mathiwos Wondu

Mathiwos under treatment at the Black Lion Hospital with his parents.

Mathiwos,  the third  and  youngest son of his parents Mr. Wondu Bekele and Mrs. Amsale Beyene, was born on June 17, 1999 (Sene 9, 1991 Ethiopian Calendar) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Until he celebrated his second birthday he was very healthy, energetic  and  his growth was corresponding to his age. A  few days after celebrating  his second  birthday, he un-expectedly became very ill, and after clinical investigation he was diagnosed with ALL-type Leukemia. He had been under treatment for 26 months. Even though there is no conducive environment for cancer treatment, the staff of Medical Faculty of Addis Ababa University,  commonly known as Black Lion  Hospital,  tried everything at their disposal to save his life. Due to lack of cancer medicines here in Ethiopia his family was  forced to import from overseas almost all  of the  very expensive medicines that were recommended by his doctors.

mathy_memoDue to Mathy’s family unreserved, all round commitment and dedication and cooperation of personnel of the Medical Faculty, Mathiwos was widely believed to be one of the best-treated patients ever in the hospital. Because of this Mathy was seen as a good reference and hope to most cancer patients in Ethiopia. After 22 months of comparative improvement, unexpectedly it was found out that the disease has relapsed, accordingly the Medical Board of the Hospital decided that there was no proper medication left for Mathiwos here in Ethiopia and refereed him to the abroad for possible Bone Marrow transplant which is not possible in Ethiopia and in Africa except South Africa and Egypt.

After intensive search for overseas treatment possibilities in South Africa, Europe, India and North America, National Cancer Institute (NCI/NIH) of Bethesda, MD, USA agreed to accept Mathy for further treatment option including Bone Marrow transplant. Mathy accompanied by his mother and his elder brother (donor) was about to fly to Washington D.C, U.S.A. All necessary conditions for the trip such as round trip air ticket, accommodation, visa, etc have been arranged. Before they leave, unfortunately, Mathiwos passed away on September 24, 2003, while he was under treatment at the Black Lion Hospital. A group of people of different races and nationalities from three different continents, many of  whom without knowing each other, tried together everything that is humanly possible to save his life. Even though their concerted efforts couldn’t save Mathy’s life, the group, without being frustrated by the unexpected outcome, decided to strengthen and consolidate their efforts to honor him and his cause, and as a result established Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society/MWECS/. Although grief stricken, the parents of Mathiwos and founding members made a vow to continue to support other families with children diagnosed with cancer in an effort to spare them from hopelessness a parent feels when he or she is not able to help or save their child. The Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society (MWECS) was established at the first General Assembly meeting of the founding members held on April 17, 2004. The Society secured its legal personality through a certificate of registration bearing the number 1382.For further information refer to our web site:
MWECS is actively working in so many cancer and non communicable diseases-related activities, particularly in raising public awareness of cancer, its prevention and treatment possibilities. In addition, the society has been ardently working to improve treatment conditions and support cancer patients. The Society began its quest by focusing its initial efforts on pediatric cancer and has been implementing cancer impact mitigation project since 2010.So far, the society supported more than 120 pediatric cancer patients and at the present supports 54 paediatric cancer patients. The society covers cost of medicines and diagnostic laboratory services not provided by the Black  Lion Hospital, transport from and to their regions and food support while the patients are under
treatment at the hospital. As of recently, the society started working on women cancers as one of its main focus area and
towards these ends, started working with the Federal Ministry of Health, government and non government organizations and invites others to join forces to challenge the growing burden of  women cancers which account for more than 50% of all cancer mortality and morbidity in Ethiopia. MWECS has been implementing Anti-tobacco campaign in ten selected schools and planning to expand the same to universities. Thanks to the generous support we secured from Initiative Africa we managed to continue conducting anti-tobacco campaign in 11 selected schools here in Addis Ababa. The campaign started six years ago by the grant we received from International Union Against Cancer Control/UICC/ and continued despite the small amount of resources at our disposal. Sixty-three per cent of all deaths worldwide are caused by non-communicable disease (NCDs), for which tobacco use is one of the greatest risk factors. Since tobacco is the greatest single preventable risk factor for almost all non-communicable disease, ratification of the FCTC will help Ethiopia reduce the burden of NCDs in the country. A recent report published by the American Cancer society found that Africa is poised to become the ‘‘future epicenter of the tobacco epidemic,’’ and warns that the number of adults in Africa who smoke could increase to 572 million by 2100, from 77 million today, unless leaders take step to curb current trends. However, most African countries remain in the early stages of tobacco epidemic, with tobacco  use relatively low compared with the rest of the world. Thus there is time to put prevention strategies into place that could have significant impact. In fact, the report’s researchers estimate
that if African countries put appropriate policy interventions in place, the region could avoid 139 million premature deaths by 2100.
The American Cancer Society has recently identified Ethiopia as a regional priority in or global health strategy and we look forward to working with ACS and other partners to advance critical cancer and tobacco control policies and programs that will advance the global fight against this disease. As of 2012,has been implementing “Meet the Targets” project intended to encourage the timely
implementation of Political Declaration on non-communicable diseases passed by United  Nations Head of States in 2011. We are grateful to every single person and organization that showed the courage to step up and give of themselves. We are especially thankful to our partners, sponsors and supporters, without whom we would not be able to support cancer patients and their families; to our
members & volunteers with their relentless energy and selfless giving; to our staff and  representatives who carry our name with dignity and pride; and to our survivors and caregivers for showing us the way. Cancer is not a battle that one can fight and win in isolation and we look forward to the professional, moral and material support of willing individuals and organizations in order to
make a difference!

September 23, 2014
Addis Ababa