Fellow Since 1992
Asociación Mexicana para Ayuda a Niños con Cáncer (AMANC)
This profile was prepared when Guadalupe Alejandre was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Although cancer is officially recognized as the fourth most common cause of death in children, few facilities exist in Mexico to treat patients and their families. Guadalupe realized that, in order to draw attention to this disease, an organization was needed to bring the situation into the public domain.While her own child could at least expect the best medicine and facilities available in Mexico, most children with cancer come from families without the money to make this possible.Since the only cancer treatment centers are in Mexico City, children from the provinces are particularly vulnerable. "I was appalled by the miserable conditions in which children from the provinces spent the night when they came to the capital to have chemotherapy," Guadalupe says. "They sleep on the ground, in the waiting rooms of hospitals, in metro stations and in parking lots near the hospital."The National Pediatric Institute treats 3,000 patients with 500 new cases every year; in the General Hospital, 600 patients are regularly treated with 300 new cases a year. Outside these two centers, specialist treatment is very limited. Guadalupe estimates that, beyond Mexico City, there are only 23 pediatric oncologists working in the entire country.When families can not find money for the journey to the capital, children stop receiving treatment. Many families cannot pay for the needed care that is not provided by the state health care system, such as chemotherapy.Since chemotherapy is very expensive, many hospitals do not offer the treatment to children whose parents can not pay. Instead they are sent to surgery or to radiotherapy. "Many children are dying because their families can not afford chemotherapy," Guadalupe says. There is no support system for families with a child suffering from cancer. Research into the disease is very limited and, until recently, the latest medicines were not available in Mexico.Guadalupe decided to publicize this dire situation and to give child cancer the priority they deserve.