Osagie Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health has said that Africa clearly has a lot of work to do to catch up on cancer control efforts as the cancer incidence and mortality are increasing in Africa. Ehanire made this statement at the webinar of the African cancer CEO’s forum with the “The state of Cancer Control Amidst Covid-19 held today.
According to him, since people lose their lives to undiagnosed cancer, there is limited data to show the accurate magnitude of the cancer burden in our continent, while eliminating preventable cancers, like cervical cancer by 2030 is the target.
The Minister of Health said that in many parts of the world, national cancer screening is still a noble concept in our continent. And as a continent of over 1.3 billion people. 80 percent of Africa is yet to have access to the human papillomavirus vaccine.
“Africa clearly has a lot of work to do to catch up on cancer control efforts. In 2018, there were over 752,000, new cases of cancer, and an estimated 506,000 deaths, which is 4 percent of the global cancer tutor due to our population. Nigeria is a major contributor to the cancer burden in Africa with over 100,000 cases and more than 70,000 deaths.
“An Overview 50 percent of cancer diagnoses in many African countries are related to some infections, which are largely preventable,” he said. According to Ehanire, in Nigeria, the federal government has committed to the introduction of human papillomavirus vaccine into the routine immunization schedule by the first quarter of 2021.
“We shall put it in our budget and we should have much outwards, with action. Nigeria is strongly committed to achieving the world cancer organization global target of 90% coverage of HPV vaccination of girls. 70% coverage of dry cow screening and 90% repent of cervical cancer by 2030.
“We have demonstrated capacity by achieving these success rates in HIV, AIDS. And we can do it again. I wish to assure our citizens and partners that we shall welcome you, working with the government of Nigeria towards the elimination of cervical cancer,” he said
The minister pointed out that the challenge with cancer control in Nigeria is not only lack of early detection, but also the lack of early treatment adding that many persons also suffering from financial barriers presents with a cancer diagnosis, but are unable to access cancer treatment early enough, due to the cost.
According to him, in the 2020 budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari almost 730 million naira was appropriated for the catastrophic Health Fund, a fund to support the treatment of indigent Nigerians that moves with breast cervical or prostate cancer.
“The Federal Ministry of Health will ensure that this fund is released in this budget cycle to increase access to cancer treatment for Nigerians and the seven federal tertiary health institutions designated as oncology Centers of Excellence are presently being upgraded with radiotherapy equipment, such as linear accelerators complementary equipment, such as CT scans and simulators.
“In addition, we have introduced the cancer access partnership program to improve access to cancer medicines at more than 50% cost reduction work in collaboration with the American Cancer Society and the Clinton Health Access Initiative is an ongoing stakeholder meeting to expand this program to include more pharmaceutical companies, a wider spectrum of medicines and more participating health facilities to improve the enhanced benefits to Nigerians,” said Ehanire.
The minister of health urged that the federal government is now encouraging all states to also take up this cancer plan and make the investments to save lives.
“If state governments invest in cancer control, we should have increased the chances of early cancer detection. In Nigeria and therefore, improve the outcomes. The federal government has seen the benefits of public-private partnership in Nigeria’s sovereign Investment Authority at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and the advanced cancer treatment center.
“COVID-19 has challenged our countries. We must not relent in our efforts to build health systems that are resilient, not productive, to the needs of the African population. The time for governments, civil societies and other stakeholders to commit to cancer control is now can do this If we have a shared goal,” Ehanire.