Meet Imay

  • Imay
  • Imay and his mother Rabina

Meet Imay. Imay is a cheerful and sociable young boy, smiling despite the hardship he and his mother have been facing. At only six-years-old, Imay is no stranger to hospital life. Imay’s mother, Rabina, first brought her son to Kathmandu when he developed bad bruising on his leg, returning just a few months later after Imay broke his arm. Yet it is Imay’s most recent diagnosis that worries Rabina the most. In 2018, Imay was tragically diagnosed with cancer and referred to Kanti Children’s Hospital (KCH) in Kathmandu, where he has been receiving treatment for the last year. 

Finding out Imay had cancer has been difficult for his parents. Before Imay’s cancer, both his parents worked as farmers in their village in a hilly, rural area of Eastern Nepal. Rabina has now had to give up her job to stay by her son’s side. The family have been forced to separate whilst Imay’s dad, Nara, has stayed in their village so he can work to make money for his sons’ treatment. Rabina expresses that this is just not covering the costs as she tells us of the financial burden they have been facing:

“We have already spent 4 lakh (£2,874) on Imay’s treatment and it has only been a year. We borrowed lots of this from relatives and friends because Nara’s income is just not enough”

Rabina is emotionally distraught by her son’s illness and prays that no parent ever experiences what she has. 

“Kathmandu is only for rich people; hospitals are only for rich people. Why must diseases [like these] come to the poor, why must we come to Kathmandu?”

Rabina is not alone in her belief that quality healthcare is inaccessible to low-income households. Many families affected by childhood cancer struggle to afford treatment, especially when one parent has to leave their job in order to care for their child. Moreover, this financial burden often causes families to abandon treatment for their child, which significantly reduces their chance of survival. 

Just as Rabina witnesses a disparity in access to healthcare within Nepal, the problem is no different worldwide. Currently, as little as 10 percent of children with cancer in low-and middle-income countries will survive compared to 80 percent in high income countries. World Child Cancer is working to try and change this by providing financial support to vulnerable families so that they are able to cover medical costs. Financial support can limit the wider damage caused by cancer; helps reduces treatment abandonment rates and ultimately ensures children receive the treatment they so desperately need

Despite their struggles, Imay keeps himself occupied. With his radiant smile and bubbly character, it is easy to see why Imay has so many friends at the hospital. A father of another child at the hospital even teaches him how to paint in his free time. Although he keeps busy and appears happy, Imay still misses home – he especially misses playing with his friends from school and his pet goat. As for the future, Imay tells us that wants to be a footballer when he grows up.