At a mid-term regional coordination meeting of the IAEA Technical Cooperation Project Supporting Comprehensive National Cancer Control, 15 African Member States gathered for a three-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in February to review the four-year project's progress in developing cancer control activities in the participating Member States since the previous regional meeting in Dakar, Senegal, in 2011.
In his opening address, Dr. Willis Akhwale, Head of the Department of Disease Prevention and Control at Kenya's Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, acknowledged the support from the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) to build capacity in cancer control in low and middle income countries. Dr. Akhwale further highlighted the increasing burden of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in many African countries. The burden of cancer in Africa is often exacerbated, since cancers are not identified early enough to allow treatment that can lead to a cure due to the region's limited cancer diagnosis and treatment capacity.
In Kenya, for example, radiotherapy treatment is available only in Nairobi, resulting in additional annual costs exceeding US$ 6 million for cancer patients' travel and treatment abroad. To offer more in-country capacity, Kenya health authorities have been actively promoting cancer prevention and control since 2011.
Across the African region, cancer control programmes have proven most effective when integrated into a comprehensive strategy for NCD prevention and control, said Dr. Jean-Marie Dangou, cancer focal point at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
The meeting concluded by acknowledging the need to prioritize cancer in the respective Member State's health policies, and to continue developing and implementing National Cancer Control Programmes, while ensuring human resource capacity building.
Considering the often limited national health budgets, the development and submission of bankable projects that can attract funding from international donors was considered by several participants as a promising means to provide the needed financing for comprehensive cancer control programmes in African IAEA Member States.