Egypt: Key children’s cancer hospital on the brink of closure amid country’s dire economic situation

Due to a sharp drop in donations, the administration of Egypt’s Children’s Cancer Hospital estimates the facility can only survive for eight months without intervention.

Egypt’s economic problems have become more acute in the past two years, initially because of Covid-19 and then because of the war in Ukraine, leading to hikes in prices of food and fuel.

Under this economic situation, Egypt’s main children’s cancer hospital is on the verge of closure after a noticeable drop in donations, according to the hospital’s administration.

Donations to the Children’s Cancer Hospital, widely known as Hospital 57357, have declined by 80-88 percent in the past six months alone, states the hospital administration.

“This also makes us incapable of maintaining our services for long,” Mustafa Abdel Nasser, reported MEE citing the media spokesperson for the hospital.

Public donations constituted the main revenue of Hospital 57357 since it opened in southern Cairo in 2007.

The hospital treats thousands of children free of charge. It had become an exemplary model of publicly funded health institutions over the years.

With 345 inpatient beds and 2,548 workers – including 397 full and part-time physicians and 726 nurses – it is the largest paediatric oncology hospital in the world in terms of capacity, according to its website.

Around 18,000 children are currently receiving free treatment at the hospital and there are 17,500 patients on its waitlist.

The hospital’s administration says the rising exchange rate of the US dollar against the Egyptian pound has caused the prices of hospital requirements to rise dramatically.

The rising prices, compared to the money the hospital has, are making it impossible to cover basic costs, including for medicines and equipment, says the administration.

“The drop in donations makes things even worse,” Ebada Sarhan, a member of the hospital’s board of trustees, said.

He and other hospital officials expect 57357 to stop functioning in eight months’ time if the rate of donations continues as is and no intervention is made to offer it a lifeline.

The driving force behind the drop in donations is the rising cost of living, including food, and the failure of a large number of Egyptians to spare funds for charity.

Egypt’s economic problems have become more acute in the past two years, initially because of Covid-19 and then because of the war in Ukraine.

The war-induced rise in commodity prices is ricocheting off the international market and hitting the wallets of tens of millions of Egyptians, translating into higher prices in the local market.

Egypt’s tourism and export sectors also received devastating blows from the war, depriving the national treasury of billions of dollars in revenue.

The Egyptian Central Bank has had to devalue the Egyptian pound twice since March this year.

Like everywhere else in the world, cancer medications and treatment are costly, but in Egypt’s context, the lack of free treatment is especially disastrous, with nearly a third of the population living under the poverty line.

Most of Egypt’s state-run hospitals offer free treatment for a wide range of diseases.

Abdel Nasser said Hospital 57357 in Cairo, which used to follow up with patients after their recovery until the age of 25, has decided to reduce follow-ups to the age of 22 to reduce costs.

“It is highly likely also that we will not offer treatment to the patients on our waiting lists if this financial crisis persists,” he said.

The hospital’s only subsidiary in Egypt, namely Hospital 57357 in Tanta in the Nile Delta, stopped functioning due to financial constraints as well.

Egyptian social media is awash with a deluge of comments, calling for rescuing the hospital.

Some civil society organisations are also mobilising for donation campaigns amid widespread sympathy for the hospital’s plight, including from players in the Egyptian Premier League.