By Charndré Emma Kippie
Promising future ahead
Just a few months after celebrating its 20th anniversary, The Sunflower Fund blossoms into DKMS Africa. The organisation recently just announced a groundbreaking new global partnership with DKMS – an international non-profit organisation that is dedicated to combating blood cancer. In November 2020, the two hero organisations came together to pull off the popular annual Sunflower Day, raising funds for the fight against blood disorders, namely leukaemia and sickle cell disease.
The Sunflower Fund, now named DKMS Africa, was initiated two decades ago with the objective of expanding the list of registered donors within South Africa. Since its launch in 2000, it has enlisted more than 76 000 new donors in South Africa, and has spent around R3 million on inpatient support – assisting families with the exorbitant financial costs that are associated with getting to transplant.
DKMS is an internationally known NGO. Obtaining 30 years of experience in fighting blood cancer, the organisation has successfully registered around 10.5 million donors thus far, and is considered to have one of the most diverse donor pools in the world. With this in mind, the partnership is intended to boost South Africa’s stem cell registry and strengthen the patient support fund.
An amalgamation for success
As these two forces unite, DKMS Africa has become designated as a donor recruitment centre and stem cell registry. The amalgamated South African-based stem cell organisation is now expanding and consolidating an ‘ethnically diverse registry’. This objective of this registry is that it becomes an African community that is representative of all people – all ethnicities, cultures and creeds.
Celebrating the news, Dr Elke Neujahr, DKMS Global CEO, explained: “With DKMS Africa, we are now present in seven countries on five continents. In fact, from the first moment we met the South African executive country director, Alana James, we knew we were the perfect match.”
“A donor match could come from anywhere in the world, thus it is important that we expand our international reach. For a second chance at life, we cross borders, collaborate globally and leave no stone unturned to help patients – regardless of their geographic location. Every patient deserves that chance. Only together we can make a big impact in the lives of patients with blood disorders in South Africa and across the globe”, Dr Neujahr said.
Breaking new ground
Now a streamlined unit, their core objectives have been publically set out as follows:
- Donor diversity focus
- Routine high resolution NGS HLA typing for donors
- Ongoing fee restructuring to reduce costs
- Funding support for patients and procedures
- Provide quality procedures with predictable outcomes
In our nation, the numbers indicated that with every five minutes that go by, a South African is diagnosed with a blood disorder. For many patients affected by a blood cancer diagnosis, or a detrimental blood disorder, such as leukaemia or sickle cell disease, a blood stem cell transplant – from a matching donor – may be their only chance of survival. Unfortunately, only about one third of all affected patients, statistically, find a matching donor within their own immediate family. This means that a vast majority of these patients rely on an ‘unrelated donor’.
Alana James, South African executive country director, at DKMS Africa believes that this partnership will be life-changing for many, providing patients with a second chance at life.
“The most important part of the partnership is that it centres the patient at the core of all operations”, James exclaimed.
“Our mission remains to give South African blood cancer patients and patients across the continent a second chance at life. Already, our partnership with DKMS has born great benefits to our operations and has greatly boosted our capacity. We look forward to benefiting from DKMS’s wealth of expertise in the field of science and research, and in creating awareness.”