Fortunately, UNHCR and MAHAK have worked for more than 10 years in a fruitful collaboration to provide assistance to cancer-stricken refugee children.
MAHAK is a non-profit, non-political, and non-governmental charity focused on treating children with cancer. It uses the most up-to-date diagnostic, treatment and prevention methods, with both outpatient and in-patient services. It provides chemotherapy, medication, lab tests, radiation therapy, CT scan, transportation and family counseling – all without regard to religion, race or nationality of patients.
MAHAK is supported by fundraising and humanitarian assistance in the form of money, goods, services and technical expertise. Under the joint UNHCR-MAHAK project for 2013, a total of 76 Afghan and Iraqi refugee children under the age of 15 who suffer from cancer will be provided with medical treatment.
Under this project, the accompanying parent is also provided with counseling, accommodation and food when needed because they reside outside Tehran and face difficult economic conditions.
Iran has generously hosted the second largest refugee population in the world for over three decades — currently more than 880,000 refugees, some 40,000 from Iraq and the rest from Afghanistan. The government of Iran has always provided its refugees with access to the main areas of education, livelihood and health, some of which can be life-saving.
MAHAK takes every opportunity to cheer up the children. Javad Nekoonam, a famous Iranian football player, recently joined them for a short game. The staff of MAHAK convey their own hope, enthusiasm and energy to the children. Some are volunteers, families of patients who have themselves survived cancer, and strong believers in what can be achieved.
Many refugee families had stories like that of Ali, all grateful for the economic and psychological help the UNHCR-MAHAK agreement has brought to their lives. There were children from 2- to 17-years-old struggling with leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, cancerous tumors and undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
About two decades ago a mother who had experienced having a child with cancer and had witnessed first hand the difficulties faced by her child, pledged to set up a center that would act as a refuge for children and their families in a similar situation. With the assistance of the same friends and relatives who had helped her through her own ordeal, a board of trustees was selected and MAHAK Society to Support Children suffering from Cancer was set up as a non profit, non-governmental organization and was registered under number 6567 in 1991. MAHAK has been active from that day on in helping children with cancer and their families.