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IAEA Chief in Uruguay: Rays of Hope to Deliver Equipment to Fight Cancer; Strengthened Cooperation to Eradicate Screwworm


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced that Hospital de Clínicas Dr. Manuel Quintela in Montevideo, Uruguay, will receive a linear accelerator through the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, on 19 December 2023. (Photo: D. Candano Laris/IAEA)

Thanks to the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, Uruguay will be better equipped to prevent and treat cancer. In his first official visit to Uruguay, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced on Tuesday that Uruguay will receive five mammography machines and a linear accelerator through the IAEA’s flagship cancer initiative.

“This IAEA support is crucial and timely, ensuring cancer patients receive the care they need and deserve,” Mr Grossi said. Rays of Hope aims to increase access to radiation medicine services.

Mr Grossi met with Vice President Beatriz Argimón and Secretary of the Presidency Álvaro Delgado to announce the extensive assistance provided by Rays of Hope and to discuss IAEA-supported projects in Uruguay, including efforts to eradicate screwworm. Mr Grossi also met with other high-level officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Omar Paganini and the Minister of Public Health Karina Rando.

Mr Grossi visited Pereira Rossell Hospital Centre, which will receive three mammography machines. Two more machines will be delivered to the State Health Services Administration in Artigas and Cerro Largo. Mr Grossi also visited the Hospital de Clínicas Dr. Manuel Quintela, which will receive a linear accelerator for radiotherapy treatments, and the Uruguayan Centre for Molecular Imaging.

“Rays of Hope is becoming a reality also in Latin America, thanks to partners like the US, whose generous contribution made this vital addition to Hospital de Clínicas possible,” Mr Grossi said.

The most frequent types of cancer in Uruguay are breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancer, and they account for about half of the 16 000 new cancer cases per year, according to the Global Cancer Observatory. "Half of all cancer patients require radiotherapy," he said. The assistance package provided to Uruguay is a clear manifestation of concrete cooperation in the area of health, Mr Grossi said.

In meeting with the Gabriel González, Director of Uruguay’s National Regulatory Authority in Radiation Protection, Mr Grossi noted the regulator’s role in tapping the full potential of nuclear science in a safe and secure way, including in delivering Rays of Hope support.

Eradicating pest with nuclear science

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the National Institute of Agricultural Research’s Experimental Station, which is applying the sterile insect technique against screwworm. (Photo: D. Candano Laris/IAEA)

In Uruguay, one livestock pest – the New World Screwworm – costs the country an estimated US $150 million annually. Screwworms are parasitic fly larvae that feed on and can be fatal to warm-blooded animals. The IAEA has been providing technical support to Uruguay to eradicate New World Screwworms using the sterile insect technique (SIT). On Wednesday, Mr Grossi met with Fernando Mattos, Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay, to discuss the IAEA’s role in efforts to eradicate screwworm and in fighting zoonosis through ZODIAC, the IAEA’s initiative to help countries prevent pandemics caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

Mr Grossi visited the National Institute of Agricultural Research’s Experimental Station, which is applying SIT against screwworm. “Together we’ll intensify this cooperation towards permanent eradication,” Mr Grossi said.

SIT is an environmentally friendly pest control method that mass-rears and sterilizes, using radiation, a target pest. The sterile males are then systematically released in defined areas, where they mate with wild females resulting in no offspring and a declining pest population.

“We are working to protect agriculture and livestock farming from pests, such as screwworms, that harm agricultural production,” Mr Grossi said. “Nuclear technology and science provide elements that are undoubtedly important for the economy of countries.”

Rounding out his visit to Uruguay, Mr Grossi met with Elisa Facio, the Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining. They agreed on the importance of capacity building and a strong regulatory framework to fully harness the benefits of nuclear applications.

“The IAEA will continue to support Uruguay in the peaceful uses of nuclear for its development,” Mr Gross concluded.

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