A new Ugandan TV series is promising to contribute to the fight against cancer by educating the public and raising awareness about the deadly disease.
Crossroads, a rather apt title for the drama show about a disease that kills more people than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined, began production last week and is set to premiere on Urban TV this December.
The series’ writer, actress Diana Kahunde, has described its storyline as a poignant tale of the plight of cancer sufferers – particularly children – and their families.
“We basically set out to explore the various dynamics of cancer in Uganda with special focus on children,” Kahunde told guests at a cocktail party held in Kampala last week to flag-off production of the five-season soap.
The 28-year-old former beauty queen and actress, better known from her stint with The Hostel, told of how she was approached by the Uganda Child Cancer Foundation (UCCF) to create a TV show that would aid in the struggle against the deadly disease.
UCCF, an NGO that seeks to offer comprehensive support to children suffering from cancer, has along with other line organizations continuously grappled with the ever surging number of childhood cancer victims in Uganda.
According to recent statistics, the ‘silent killer’ disease claims at least 2,000 Ugandan children every year – which is about quarter the total number of cancer fatalities.
Childhood cancers are often the result of DNA changes in cells rather than lifestyle or environmental risk factors as is the case with many of the cancers in adults.
Burkitt’s lymphoma, the most common childhood cancer in Uganda, is notorious for its low survival rates. It is said to hide in the victim’s body, viciously attacking the lymphatic system until it reaches its mature stages when it is no longer curable.
Doctors however say childhood cancers are easily treatable when detected early, although the challenge in Uganda is that most cases go undiagnosed.
Even the few that are diagnosed do not receive proper treatment because they cannot afford the extremely expensive surgery and drugs required to treat cancer.
“If it weren’t for limited knowledge, late diagnosis and lack of adequate funds for treatment, 70-85% of many types of childhood cancer in Uganda could be cured,” Ben Iraka, UCCF Operations Manager, has told this blog.
The series is supported by a number of cancer advocacy groups, NGOs and government agencies including Ministry of Health and Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).
Asked about the viability of a soap opera in the fight against a killer disease, UCI Director Jackson Orem explained that television and entertainment have unequalled power to change people’s mindsets.
“We will continue to run other advocacy campaigns but we are hopeful that this TV show will be the most effective of them all since it appeals to people of all walks of life,” Orem asserted.
Crossroads is produced by Bored Digital, a nascent multimedia company, and will be directed by Davidson Mugume of The Hostel fame.
It stars a stellar lead cast of top Ugandan actors including Daniel Omara, Rehema Nanfuka, Usama Mukwaya and Diana Kahunde.
Others are Joshua Poro, Dianne Turyamureeba, Gida Oyonbot, Cate Ayella and Douglas Sebamala.
The series will tussle for Urban TV viewership and ratings with another upcoming local soapie, Beneath the Lies, which also debuts this December on the same channel.