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First Ladies Commit to Action and Leadership on Cancer Control


OIC first ladies gathered to show their commitment for expanded cancer prevention and control held on the sidelines of the 13th OIC Summit in Istanbul. (Photo: N. Enwerem-Bromson/IAEA)

The first ladies of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) renewed their commitment to expanded cancer prevention and control at a special session held on the sidelines of the 13th OIC Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The session was organized in cooperation with the IAEA.

“We must and need to expand access to quality cancer care for all,” said Rosmah Mansor, the First Lady of Malaysia.

Princess Dina Mired of Jordan underlined the importance of the event, calling for “increased political will and proactive collaboration” to enable knowledge and technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer to be shared between OIC Member States and relevant partners.

The Istanbul Declaration of the Special Session on First Ladies’ Leadership on Cancer Control, recognizes the “urgent humanitarian responsibility” to provide OIC Member and Observer States with adequate resources to strengthen collaboration to build effective cancer prevention, control and palliative care services.

The OIC first ladies’ stand against cancer falls in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015 at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. SDG 3 on “health” specifically sets a target for countries to reduce early deaths to non-communicable diseases, including cancer, by one third over the next 15 years. Meeting this challenge could save at least 40 million lives from cancer, but requires immediate global action.

Affordable Access

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 60% of the world’s new cancer cases and 70% of all cancer deaths occur in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, regions in which most OIC Member States are located. Unfortunately, many of these countries are not able to provide the level of affordable cancer services required to meet the increasing demand. More than half of OIC countries lack the capacities to tackle chronic diseases or address their major underlying causes.

A significant scale-up of investment involving a broad range of partners in comprehensive cancer control is crucial to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and strengthen national health systems. Zineb Jammeh, the First Lady of the Gambia, outlined the need for such support if African health ministries are to overcome the major challenges they face in strengthening early detection and treatment services for common cancers, such as breast and cervical cancer.

Cancer patients often encounter difficulties in accessing affordable cancer services. OIC Secretary General Iyad Amin Madani focused on the necessary support to bridge these gaps, adding that the OIC was cooperating with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the IAEA to implement projects aimed at enhancing and establishing cancer treatment facilities in several Member States.

The spread of cancer has become a major general health concern in our Member States, which is adversely affecting socio-economic efforts, he added.

Highlighting the great potential and impact of delivering joint efforts with partners, Nelly Enwerem-Bromson, Director of the IAEA’s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy said, “by combining the expertise and capabilities of organizations such as the OIC, IDB and the IAEA, alongside our international and national partners, we can together make a bigger impact against cancer and save countless lives.”

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