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Director General's Remarks at World Cancer Day

Vienna, Austria

(As prepared for delivery)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Colleagues.

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this IAEA World Cancer Day 2018 event.

I thank our speakers – Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, whom I am delighted to welcome back, and Her Excellency Minister Moeloek of the Republic of Indonesia.

Improving access to high-quality cancer treatment in developing countries has been a high priority for me since I became IAEA Director General eight years ago.

I have just returned from visits to three African countries. Cancer was an important focus of all three visits.

In Uganda, I attended the inauguration of a new Cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine at the Uganda Cancer Institute. This is the only radiotherapy machine in this country of more than 40 million people. The previous one broke down two years ago. The IAEA helped the Institute to acquire the new machine and to safely decommission the old radioactive source.

In Botswana, I learned about progress in establishing a new Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine Facility at the University of Botswana, which the IAEA has actively supported.

I was particularly moved by my meeting with young cancer patients in Zambia, when I visited the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka.

I met a five-year-old girl who had cancer in both kidneys. The doctors told me that, had she come a year ago, she could not have been treated. Now, there is at least hope for her, and for the other children I met at the hospital.

The Agency has supported the Cancer Diseases Hospital right from the start of planning in 2002. Hospital staff told me that IAEA experts had stood “hand in hand” with them all the way, with training and expert advice. They could not have done it without us, they said. Now the staff are keen to share their expertise with other specialists, both in Zambia and in other countries.

I was heartened by the care, dedication and determination of staff at the hospital as they treat both children and adults, many in the late stages of cancer. It brought home to me again how vitally important the work of the IAEA is in helping countries to fight cancer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Encouraging stories such as these should not blind us to the reality that many millions of cancer patients in developing countries still have no access to effective prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment services.

Twenty-eight African countries do not have a single radiotherapy machine. The IAEA will continue to work hard to change that, and to improve facilities in other regions of the world where the need is also great.

IAEA experts from all technical departments, and from many scientific disciplines, put together packages of services that help countries to improve access to modern cancer treatment.

We support individual hospitals. We offer expert missions, known as imPACT reviews, which assess a country’s cancer control capacities and needs and identify priority action. We help governments to plan and build nuclear medicine and radiotherapy facilities, and we advise on the most appropriate equipment.

We provide education and training for oncologists, radiologists, medical physicists and other specialists at our own nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna. We also arrange training in hospitals and research centres in more developed countries.

In Africa, the IAEA helped to establish the Africa Radiation Oncology Network (AFRONET). It enables professionals in radiotherapy centres in a number of countries to discuss individual cancer cases online and share views on treatment. This Virtual Tumour Board has helped to strengthen clinical decision-making in many countries.

The AFRONET model is being expanded to Francophone Africa and to other regions, including the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. Radiation oncologists from Indonesia are involved in this exciting initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is estimated that around 10 million people undergo diagnostic, therapeutic or interventional procedures involving medical radiation every day. Ensuring that such procedures are safe is an integral part of our work.

IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles and safety standards have established a strong framework for nuclear safety throughout the world.

Our Dosimetry Laboratory near Vienna is at the heart of a global network of dosimetry labs run by the IAEA and the World Health Organization. This helps to ensure that patients receive exactly the right dose of radiation – neither too much nor too little.

An exciting development for us since the last World Cancer Day is that a leading manufacturer of radiotherapy equipment has agreed to give us our first medical linear accelerator.

When operational at the IAEA Dosimetry Laboratory next year, this will significantly enhance the assistance we can provide to hospitals around the world in the safe and effective use of radiotherapy.

The IAEA also helps countries to draft nuclear legislation and to create effective nuclear regulatory bodies. These are essential to enable countries to obtain radioactive sources on the international market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA has been working for decades with a global network of partners such as WHO to help countries establish comprehensive cancer control programmes. We greatly value these partnerships.

Cancer in developing countries will remain a high priority for me during my third term as IAEA Director General. We will strive to continuously improve the services we offer our Member States so they can provide better care – and hope – for their people.

I am grateful to all our donors and partners for their support for the Agency’s work. And I thank all of you for demonstrating your support through your presence here today.

Thank you.

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