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Nigerian lawmaker decries poor funding for cancer treatment

A Nigerian lawmaker, Mohammed Usman, has described as poor, insufficient and inadequate the funding for treatment of Cancer, a disease that claims about 10,000 lives in the country annually.

This he said was the resultant effect of the poor funding of the annual health budget which has repeatedly fallen below the 15 percent benchmark of the Abuja declaration.

Nigeria hosted the Heads of State of member countries of the African Union (AU) in 2001. There the “Abuja Declaration” was made with the leaders pledging to commit at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improving their health sector.

Since the declaration, Nigeria has not attained the pledged funding benchmark as the federal government has never voted more than six per cent of its annual budget to the health sector.

Mr. Usman, the deputy chairman committee on healthcare services in the House of Representatives, said the 2018 health budget is even the lowest so far.

This was his remark on Friday in Abuja during a symposium organised by Project Pink Blue in collaboration with the U.S. embassy to commemorate the World Cancer Day 2018.

“When you have inadequate funding, there is no way you can cater for a lot of these diseases affecting millions of Nigerians,” Mr. Usman said.

He further described the number of functional radiotherapy machines in the country as very inadequate.

Despite having an increasing number of citizens suffering from cancer, Nigeria only has seven radiotherapy machines, five of which are currently faulty.

About half of all cancer patients need some type of radiation therapy during the course of their treatment, whereby high-energy radiation is used to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells through X-rays, gamma rays and charged particles.

“Apart from Abuja and Sokoto, there is no other place you can get radiotherapy treatment in the country,” Mr. Usman said.

He nonetheless remained optimistic of better days ahead for Cancer patients.

“The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, was in the house to defend his budget on Wednesday and he made very sufficient provision and amount of money for cancer treatment in Nigeria so it’s a step forward.

“Last year there was a bill at the Senate and House of Representative, a public hearing was conducted and I am happy to say that early January this year that among the bills which President Muhammadu Buhari accented to was that of cancer so it now means that with the accent to that bill we are going to have a cancer treatment programme as an agency in Nigeria similar to that of HIV.

“It will really go a long way because this agency will handle all issues pertaining to cancer and its going have a separate budget, the personnel will be trained and they will have a look at the current situation in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr. Usman urged states in the country to allot more of their annual budget to health.

Earlier in his opening remark, the Board Chairman of Project Pink Blue, Peter Edigbo, said the symposium is a yearly event held to create awareness for cancer.

“Since 2015, every year we join the cancer communities across the globe to commemorate the World Cancer Day with awareness, policy management, screening among others and launching of various initiatives.

“In the 2015 World Cancer Day, we launched the breast cancer eradication and palliative programme, a programme that trained 43 nurses to become patient navigators helping cancer patients to navigate complex health care system.

“In 2016 World Cancer Day, we launched the cancer toll free telephone 08000cancer so people can have access to cancer information.

“In 2017, we launched Abuja breast cancer support group with only 9 cancer patients and survivors. Today the group has grown to over 45 members helping each other.

“This year, we developed a programme on oncology training targeted to supporting clinical oncologists in Nigeria with thorough knowledge to upgrade oncology care and this programme will be launched today,” Mr. Edigbo said.

During the launch, the Project Pink Blue Executive Director, Runcie Chidebe, recounted prominent Nigerians who died of Cancer.

“We lost Gani Faweyinmi, Dora Akunyili among others to cancer. These deaths are preventable that is why we are taking a different strategy today.

“There is no medical oncologist in the country, but we have radiation oncologists, the radiation oncologist has the skill of medical oncology but it’s not clearly defined so what this programme will do is that it will work with the association of radiation oncologists of Nigeria to develop a dynamic model that will upgrade their skills in quality of care on cancer treatment,” Mr. Chidebe said.

Usually, an oncologist manages a person’s care and treatment once he or she is diagnosed with cancer. The field of oncology has three major areas: medical, surgical, and radiation. A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy.

According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria among other developing African countries is predicted to expect a 75 per cent increase in cancer-induced death by 2030.


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