Author(s): Meremikwu MM, Ehiri JE, Nkanga DG, Udoh EE
This paper presents health outcomes and associated socioeconomic factors of 41 children admitted to a tertiary care institution in south-east Nigeria with Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) between 1987 and 2004. BL responds well to chemotherapy and does not pose a significant threat to health in industrialized nations. However, in resource-poor settings where it is endemic, socioeconomic factors significantly affect access to care for affected children, making this readily treatable condition a cause of considerable distress and early death in affected children. Half of the children reported in this paper presented with late stage disease. Although laboratory facilities were available, they were not accessible to all the children. Nearly a quarter of parents of these children could not afford the cost of confirmatory tests, and about a fifth (n = 8; 19.5%) of the children received no chemotherapy because of their parents' inability to pay. Only 21 of 41 children (51.2%) remained on treatment long enough (at least 12 weeks) to enable them to be confirmed either as short-term cure (n = 9; 64.3%), or as early relapse (n = 2; 4.9%). Owing to financial constraint, 13 of the parents (31.7%) withdrew their children against medical advice (n = 7; 17.1%) or left the hospital (n = 6; 14.6%). To address the challenge posed by these factors, we call for the establishment of a regional BL programme in Africa to help establish a critical mass of resources (human and material) to facilitate the development of an effective and accessible control programme in the region.