Remember # 57357
Festivities again help in the effort to build the first free-of-charge cancer hospital for children. Amira El-Noshokaty reports
"They are not alone, you know," explained 17-year-old Fatemah El-Said, a performer who travelled from Port Said to Cairo to dance -- along with the rest of the Port Said Stadium Youth Centre Performing Group -- at the third annual charity festival organised by the Association of Friends of the National Cancer Institute (AFNCI). "We are here to bring those sick children joy and make them smile. They are all our siblings, and as long as we are hand-in-hand we can help them recover," added El-Said at the festival created to raise money for the construction of a children's cancer hospital in Cairo.
"Run, have fun and give life to someone" was the slogan of the third "57357" festival, held at the Cairo Stadium on 17 October. The campaign for the hospital started in 1998, when the hospital was renamed "57357" to remind people of the bank account number for donations. The hospital, which will cost LE310 million, was scheduled to be opened in December 2003. While this year's festival attendance was estimated at 250,000, compared to 60,000 last year, some are worried that the campaign has lost momentum.
According to a representative from one of the seven Misr Bank donation booths, who preferred anonymity, donations this year totalled only LE2,000 by the early afternoon, while last year they had collected LE100,000 by sunset. But according to Iman Nofal, event coordinator for the AFNCI, another Misr Bank booth collected LE50,000 during the event.
The fact that the hospital has not met its deadline and is still under construction is perhaps reason for the lack of donations this year. According to Safinaz Mohamed, a college student, last year saw a heavy media campaign leading up to the event. However, notes Mohamed, this year there had been very little publicity in either the media or at her university. AFNCI's media coordinator, Sherif Rashed, explained that this year's advertising budget was limited and the media campaign only began two weeks prior to the festival.
Addressing the issue of delayed construction, Gihan El- Saadawy, an AFNCI coordinator, explained, "we postponed opening the hospital until the end of 2004 because of the sudden increase of the dollar rates." Because of the falling pound "we now need to raise more money to complete the final stages of the hospital, up from LE120 million to LE210 million. This also resulted in the retraction of most of the contractors we had been dealing with," El-Saadawy said. She indicated, however, that work on the hospital should resume within a month.
Those who did show up last Friday were greeted by artists such as Amr Diab, famous footballers such as Mahmoud El- Khatib and many celebrities who made appearances to help raise both attendance and money.
Representatives from 26 universities, six governorates and the Ministry of Youth, as well as around 600 volunteers were also in attendance. The army provided fireworks and entrance to the stadium was free for the day.
"I care" was written on 12-year-old Sherif Omar's T-shirt, who came to make a donation at the annual festival. "I am here to be part of something that everybody wishes to come true," Omar explained.
Among their other activities, the AFNCI plans to distribute a small and colourful booklet entitled Cancer Facts For Kids, the first of its kind in Egypt. Written in Arabic and English it is intended to educate Egyptian school children about cancer. Moreover, as part of its cancer awareness campaign, the AFNCI created a two-minute TV segment on children with cancer, to be aired daily during the holy month of Ramadan. "There are 23 million children between the ages of five and 15 in Egypt and that's a fast way to reach them," explained Patricia Pruden, assistant director of public relations and a pediatric oncology consultant at the AFNCI. Pruden added that the AFNCI is also creating a comic book to promote health awareness.
There are no national statistics on children with cancer in Egypt. However, according to Sherif Kamal, a member of the medical team at the AFNCI, the National Cancer Institute cares for almost 150 child cancer patients per week. "An estimated four to eight thousand new child cancer patients seek treatment at the National Cancer Institute annually," Kamal added.
The festival follows the International Pediatric Oncology Conference that was held in Cairo from 8 to 12 October, under the auspices of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak. Over 650 research papers on the latest cancer diagnosis and therapies were discussed.
You can donate LE1.5 to the campaign by calling 1468 from your mobile, or calling 090-0955 from any land line.