At a time when experts predict rising cancer rates in developing countries, efforts are intensifying for the care and treatment of patients. Africa´s fight against cancer recently received a boost, from the OPEC Fund for International Development. The Vienna-based agency donated US$200,000 to IAEA-supported projects, specifically those carried out through technical co-operation mechanisms for Africa.
The aim is to strengthen radiotherapy services. Worldwide, an estimated 5 million new patients require radiation therapy per year. The rise is partly attributed to increasing life expectancy rates.
In Africa, less than 100 radiotherapy machines are in operation, which falls significantly short of the estimated need. High equipment costs, inadequate infrastructure and lack of qualified personnel are blamed for the shortfall continent-wide. The IAEA assistance aims at strengthening the regional infrastructure and promoting human resources development through enhanced training programmes to meet the needs of Member States.
The grant will roll out through an IAEA scheme under the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA). It will go toward improving in 20 Member States the standard of safety and effectiveness in clinical radiotherapy services for the most commonly diagnosed cancers. These include breast, cervix, head/neck and HIV-related carcinomas.
The work builds on experience, as the IAEA has helped Mongolia, Ethiopia, Namibia, and Ghana establish radiotherapy facilities. It also provides ongoing support to some 80 developing countries to help them upgrade their radiotherapy facilities and provide training to staff.