The First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, was recently announced as an inaugural member of the Global HOPE International Council. The International Council which will comprise African leaders and dignitaries, noteworthy global health care leaders, philanthropists and other key influencers, will serve as advocates for Global HOPE to raise awareness for the program and the plight of children with cancer in Africa.
Masisi is an accountant by profession and has held various portfolios in Botswana within the private sector. She further embarked on a career as an International Civil Servant where she served the United Nations in USA, Ethiopia and Central African Republic. Masisi has extensive experience in management and budgetary controls, grants management and financial reporting. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA – UK) and holds an MBA.
Currently, as First Lady, Masisi is involved in national issues geared at addressing HIV/AIDS. She is passionate about girls and rural women, causes that she pursues in her personal capacity. Having worked in both Botswana and the international arena, Mrs. Masisi brings across a “global view’’ approach to issues that affect humanity.
Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence), recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. It is a transformative initiative focused on creating an innovative pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network in sub-Saharan Africa that will build long-term capacity to treat and dramatically improve the prognosis of thousands of children with cancer and blood disorders. The program was created in partnership with Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI).
Global HOPE works closely with Ministries of Health in its three initial countries of focus including Botswana, Malawi and Uganda. Within two short years, the program has seen extraordinary progress, including treating more than 3,000 patients, training over 1,000 health care professionals, and graduating its first class of physician fellows from the Global HOPE Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship Program, the first of its kind in East Africa.
While Global HOPE initiative is relatively new, the relationship with these countries in Sub-Saharan Africa goes back nearly 20 years with the implementation of Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI), the largest pediatric HIV treatment network in the world, leveraging existing experience, infrastructure and public/private partnerships created through the initiative. To date, BIPAI has provided care and support to more than 1 million HIV-infected children and adolescents, and has trained more than 52,000 health care workers on issues of pediatric HIV. Building on this experience, Global HOPE is using this approach to address childhood cancer.
In the U.S., where there are 15,000 cases of pediatric cancer a year, over 80 percent of children survive and most have a very good quality life. In contrast, of the more than 100,000 children who develop pediatric cancer each year in sub-Saharan Africa, 90 percent die. In an effort to correct this glaring inequity, Global HOPE established a $150 million campaign to launch their program in three initial countries, including Botswana.
In September 2018, Dr. David Poplack, Director of Global Hope and Associate Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, had the pleasure of hosting His Excellency OP and Mrs. Masisi in Houston, Texas. The visit offered an opportunity to assess the progress made to help combat pediatric illnesses in Botswana including HIV/AIDS.
“As First Lady of the Republic of Botswana, Mrs. Masisi has an incredibly powerful voice capable of raising awareness and garnering support for initiatives to address childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Poplack. “With our hallmark program in Botswana, she was able to see the work we are doing firsthand, and I believe she has the ability to help expand our reach. I also believe she will be an extraordinary advocate for children with cancer and blood disorders.”
With the support of Mrs. Masisi and the entire International Council, Global HOPE will have the ability to expand its reach and to dramatically improve childhood cancer treatment and care in sub-Saharan Africa.