Expanding Care for Children with Cancer in a Multi-Cultural Hospital: Ethnographic Observation on a Pediatric Oncology Ward in Tanzania
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this anthropological research is to understand the modem illness experience of childhood cancer in Tanzania. I conducted field research by direct observation of a children's cancer ward in the fall of 2012 while serving as an intern for a Tanzanian childhood cancer support organization. This thesis specifically examines methods of communication between medical practitioners and children and their families; pain expression and alleviation for the patients; and the individuals and groups that provide support. The results found that challenges in communication stem from unwieldy but necessary linguistic and cultural translation due to the multi-cultural nature of the ward. When verbal communication fails, volunteers, therapists, and doctors use acting and visual images to more effectively communicate with the children. Children also learn appropriate ways to express pain from their surroundings, so as they grow they communicate pain in a culturally appropriate way. Relieving pain is also a challenge because palliative care in Tanzania is severely lacking, so medical practitioners explore creative approaches to alleviate both physical and emotional pain. Families and local actors help children navigate their treatment while at the children's ward, and simultaneously local and international bodies provide the infrastructure, salaries, and medications. Ideally Tanzania would create a pediatric oncology training program, build more facilities, and improve access to treatment and palliative care options. The advancements made in the last decade, and the continued efforts being made currently, gives each child a better chance of survival to a life cancer free.