Across the African continent, incidences of cancer have been rising at alarming rates in recent years. Working closely to fight cancer with its African membership, the IAEA joined the African Group today in commemorating Africa Day with an event to raise awareness of the need for increased cancer control measures in Africa.
The commemoration, PACT: Africa Rising to the Challenge of Cancer, was supported by the IAEA´s technical cooperation programme for Africa, Department of Human Health, and the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
"In selecting the theme of cancer, the African Group was inspired by the Director General´s commitment during his first year in office to raise international awareness and strengthen partnerships towards mitigating the challenges of cancer in developing countries," said Ambassador G.T. Mutandiro, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Chairperson of the African Group in Vienna.
"We therefore wanted, in a small measure, to support the Director General´s efforts by highlighting the cancer therapy challenges in Africa and the invaluable contribution of the PACT programme to Africa. In addition, it was also our wish to reinforce the hope awakened in us by the PACT programme, and we trust that its scope will be broadened to enable even more significant support towards cancer therapy in Africa," said Ambassador Mutandiro.
Africa Day events commenced with a short concert of traditional African music from a young South African music group, followed by welcoming remarks from Ambassador Mutandiro.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano then emphasized the importance of extending access to appropriate cancer care services in Africa. The Director General also highlighted the IAEA´s commitment to improving comprehensive cancer control on the continent and throughout the developing world.
The Director General´s remarks were echoed by Massoud Samiei, Director of the IAEA´s PACT Programme, who spoke of PACT´s recent efforts in Africa and its vision for future activities in response to requests for assistance in cancer control from African Member States.
Cancer in Africa has become a growing threat, with the continent facing a shortage of more than 3 000 cancer-related health care professionals over the next 10 years. This shortfall is exacerbated by the region´s need to generate cancer control plans and procure cancer therapy equipment. Currently, 18 African Member States have no radiotherapy services available to their cancer patients, and many other African Member States require urgent expansion of their existing services.
The annual commemoration of Africa Day marks the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, whose founding charter was signed on 25 May 1963. Since that time, the Organisation of African Unity, which began with 30 members, has bestowed its powers on the African Union, which now acts as the premier regional governing body in Africa, covering 53 member states.