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Outreach working visit to Kenya

Festus Njuguna and Gilbert Olbara, the first two pediatric oncology graduates in Kenya, received a sculpture from Director of Outreach Gertjan Kaspers. Festive part of the working visit to Eldoret.

Every six months, a team from the Princess Máxima Center visits the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret, Kenya, one of the twinning partners in the outreach program. In mid-January, Gertjan Kaspers, director of Academy and Outreach, Lisa Zwiers, pediatric oncology nurse, Karin van Gils, child life specialist, Larissa Klootwijk, physician-scientist and Rinske Meesters-Graafland, nursing specialist, traveled to Eldoret. This time accompanied by a number of invitees who offered a considerable amount at the auction of the Charity Event of World Childhood Cancer NL to join a working visit.


Fixed part of the working visits to Eldoret is a two-day workshop for health care professionals from all over Kenya. During the workshop, Festus Njuguna and Gilbert Olbara, the first two pediatric oncologists to graduate in Kenya, were presented with a sculpture by Gertjan Kaspers. Gertjan: 'This sculpture is a keepsake. As a visiting professor at Moi University, I supervised both pediatricians in their specialization, together with Professor Terry Vik of Indiana University. Of course, we hope that both brand-new pediatric oncologists will motivate more colleagues to take this step.’

Radio campaign

Gertjan: 'Together with Festus Njuguna and his team, we discussed various projects during the working visit. All projects ultimately aim to improve care for children with cancer. This includes a radio campaign to make the local population aware of childhood cancer and to ensure that they go to the hospital sooner with their sick child. Because that significantly increases their chance of survival. The campaign will run for the next six months. PhD student Larissa Klootwijk is representing the Máxima Center in this educational project. Many phone calls show that the radio campaign is well heard!’


Pediatric oncology nurse Lisa Zwiers and nursing specialist Rinske Meesters-Graafland also had something to celebrate with their Kenyan colleagues. Lisa and Rinske together drafted the curriculum for the pediatric oncology nurse training program, and the Nursing Council of Kenya officially approved it. Rinske Meesters-Graafland: 'The approval came during our working visit, a special moment. We celebrated with a delicious cake that read 'Great Teamwork’. Kenya is now one of the first countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with a good curriculum for this particular training. That day, seven nurses received their certificates for training in pediatric oncology, another great achievement!’

Twinning partner

In addition to the hospital in Eldoret, the Kenyan National Cancer Institute was also part of the working visit. Gertjan Kaspers met with director Alfred Karagu and says that Irene Nzamu, head of pediatric oncology at Kenyatta National Hospital was also present at this meeting. He says: ‘This hospital with 80 (!) beds for children with cancer has recently become a twinning partner of the Máxima Center. We discussed possibilities for setting up comprehensive centers of excellence for pediatric oncology, along the lines of the MTRH in Eldoret, with shared care centers around the country. As a follow-up, there will be a meeting with stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Health and foundations dedicated to children with cancer in Kenya.’

Playing soccer

A game of soccer with patients and their families could not be missed during the working visit in Eldoret. Child life specialist Karin van Gils has been helping to put child life care, on the map at MTRH for years, as an important part of care for children with cancer. Karin: 'With its own child life specialists, a little school and an indoor and outdoor play area, this Kenyan hospital is now dedicated to medical pedagogical care. That's good to know. And, everyone loves to kick a ball around with each other, that makes you happy.'


The final part of a full program was a visit to the Dutch ambassador in Kenya, Maarten Brouwer. Gertjan says: 'Our outreach work is an example of the efforts of Dutch organizations in Kenya, which the ambassador is happy to use. He is also willing to bring this work to the attention of Kenyan health organizations. In this way, Maarten Brouwer is also an ambassador for better care for children with cancer in Kenya. With this meeting, a successful working visit came to an end.'