Egypt children's cancer hospital given $8m after closure threat

Social media-users calling for transparency on how donation-funded 57357 centre spends its money

Cancer patients outside the 57357 hospital in Cairo. The hospital has received record funding after a call for donations. AFP
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Egypt’s largest children's cancer hospital has received donations worth $8 million in the last three weeks after saying it might be forced to close.

The Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt, better known as 57357, said in December it would be closed in six months without an increase in donations.

Since then, the hospital, which is entirely funded by donations, has collected 250 million Egyptian pounds, enough to keep it running for more than three months.

The amount is a record in a single month, said a senior official at 57357 — the bank account number through which the hospital receives donations.

The donations surpassed amounts previously collected during Ramadan, a time when Egyptians typically give more to charity.

The 320-bed hospital, which opened in 2007 following nearly a decade of fundraising events, announced a streamlined budget think week which aims to cut spending to 80 million Egyptian pounds per month.

Celebrity call

Following the hospital’s distress call in late December, a number of celebrities posted videos on social media aiming to raise awareness and save it from closure.

However, many social media users demanded transparency on how donated funds were being used.

In late December, MP Soliman Wahdan submitted a formal request to parliament for an investigation into the hospital’s finances.

Mr Wahdan told the house that he had been informed of a number of bad practices that he thinks contributed to the drying up of the hospital’s funds.

He said unreasonably large salaries were given to high-profile executives whose roles were not clearly outlined.

He also called for the publication of the finances of an academy launched in the hospital to train Egyptian oncologists, which was allocated sizeable funds.

Dr Obada Sarhan, a member of the hospital's board of trustees, told a pro-government talk show there was no financial malpractice.

He said the drop in donations was caused by economic constraints brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war harming Egypt’s economy.

In August, a second branch of the hospital, which opened in 2015 in Tanta, a city in Egypt’s rural Gharbeya province, was also shut down due to a lack of funds.

It led to outrage from families of the branch’s patients, who plastered calls for help on the walls of the hospital. They also gathered outside the building to call on authorities to step in and keep the hospital open.

A small group of patients from the Tanta branch were transferred to the city's university hospital, which opened an oncology centre to receive them.

Dr Sarhan promised to publish the hospital’s 2021 financial records to put donors at ease that their money was not being mishandled.

Mr Wahdan's call for an investigation is yet to be addressed by parliament.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 11:44 AM