Joshua is four. And he ’s not happy.
The picture was taken at NOTDEC – where Joshua lives in House Five cared for by housemother Gorret.
Right now, he ’s not there. He ’s 400km away at Mulago Hospital in Kampala – Uganda ’s best hospital. Already you know that Joshua needs our prayers.
You are right. Joshua has cancer.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Not long ago, Joshua had a swelling in his jaw and was taken to nearby Kagando Hospital. Kagando quickly referred him to Mulago.
At Mulago, he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma – a rare and aggressive childhood cancer found mainly in tropical countries and associated with malaria. It develops fast: Joshua ’s had already reached Stage 3, with tumours throughout his body.
Overall, 80-90% of such cases can be treated successfully.
So Joshua has been started on an intensive course of chemotherapy in the Cancer Unit.
He is likely to be there for at least 10 days more, and will probably need to go back to Mulago again later for further treatments to ensure that the cancer is eliminated. If you're thinking that sounds expensive, so are we: but we don't yet have firm costs.
A 4-year-old can ’t go to hospital in Kampala by himself. Joshua has been taken there by housemother Gorret and social worker Barbra. Gorret is with him all the time, and sleeps on a mattress under his bed! But Ugandan hospitals don’t feed their patients!! So besides consulting with the doctors (in English), Barbra takes in food for Gorret and Joshua, and provides relief, encouragement and moral support.
Joshua is on an open ward where some patients have cancer and COVID. Poor Gorret, camping out under his bed, and Barbra passing to-and-fro with food, have had only their first jab. Naturally they are very worried that they (and Joshua) might get COVID. But no COVID-secure options are available.
What is more, Barbra has been concerned about the open-ended costs of Joshua ’s treatment, plus all the on-costs of travel, accommodation and food. We have, of course, assured her that all these costs will be met; but that doesn 't stop her worrying. So while you ’re praying for Joshua, please spare a thought for two people who are putting themselves on the line to help him.
The Bigger Picture – more worries
COVID Vaccination levels in Uganda are tiny, false rumours are rife, and vaccine supplies so low that NOTDEC staff may never get their second jabs. Now, the Delta (Indian) variant is taking hold, particularly in Kampala. Three ex-NOTDEC youngsters who live there have got it, and it 's spreading further afield too. Even before the first lockdown restrictions have been completely removed, President Museveni has had to announce a second lockdown – initially for 42 days. As before, travel between districts has been banned – and then, just this week, even more draconian travel restrictions have been announced – leaving Gorret and Barbra wondering how they will get back to NOTDEC when Joshua is discharged. Of course, once they do finally get there, all three will have to isolate for 14 days before they can mix with others on site.
Please pray that, when the time comes, they will get the necessary travel permit, have a smooth journey home, and be helped through isolation back into the heart of NOTDEC with all the other kids.
Meanwhile … at NOTDEC
Though schools and colleges had begun to re-open, they are now completely closed again. The children and young people are upset that, yet again, their lessons and vocational courses are being disrupted. There seems no end to it all – which can be very demotivating. Please pray for wisdom for NOTDEC staff in these difficult and distressing times, which seem set to continue for some months.
The Home Front
All children living in the community with wider family are back at home full time, and not getting the school meals for which we have paid. This time, markets are open; but transport to-and-fro is difficult, hitting those needing to buy or sell foodstuffs. Crops are poor because there has been little rain, so the food situation icould even be worse than in the first lockdown. Food shortages are inevitable. Deputy Director Annah is monitoring the situation.
More Food Deliveries Soon
To avoid spreading the virus, staff who live off site are not currently going in to work (they work from home if possible); and children in the community are no longer visited routinely. But food will be delivered when it is needed. We have funds from the Lockdown Food Aid Appeal 2020 ready and waiting – with plenty to cover any food deliveries that Annah and her staff judge necessary to feed the families caring for NOTDEC children.
We Need to Talk About MONEY
This is NOT a begging letter. Thanks to your astonishing generosity in 2020, we DO NOT NEED any more money for Food Aid during lockdown.
We will need money for Joshua ’s treatment and associated costs – but as yet we don’t know how much. We have already received a few offers of support; but please understand that any donation would go towards Joshua ’s medical treatment and other related expenses – like transport, food, accommodation and extra staff costs. Should more be received than we need for Joshua, we will put the sum remaining towards any future major treatment costs for another NOTDEC child.
But above all …
Please pray that the Lord will shower down His blessing on Joshua, on Barbra, Gorret and the others caring for him, on all NOTDEC staff, on all the kids in their care, and on the NOTDEC farm – where showers of any kind would truly be a blessing.