The Federal Government on Monday unveiled three policy documents that would stimulate efforts to reduce the prevalence of cancer in Nigeria.
The documents were inaugurated by the Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, in Abuja at the opening ceremony of the 2023 International Cancer Week (ICW).
The theme of the ICW is “Addressing Cancer Care Disparities through Improved Access to Research and Treatment”.
The documents are the National Strategic Cancer Control Plan 2023-2027, National cancer Research Agenda 2024-2027 and the National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of Uterine Cervix 2023-2027.
Alausa said that the three documents have priority areas of action that address governance, prevention, supply chain management, data and research as well as surveillance.
He said it was no longer news that cancer had become a leading cause of death worldwide including Nigeria, saying global distribution of predominant cancers has continued to change especially in developing countries.
According to him, the low and middle-income countries accounted for 51 per cent of all cancers worldwide in 1975 and the proportion increased to 55 per cent in 2007 and to 70 per cent in 2018.
“The rise in incidence of cancers is even worse with breast cancer which is the main focus of the October Cancer Awareness activities.
“Breast Cancer has remained the commonest cancer in Nigeria for a long time now and the incidence is still on the increase.
“This is followed by cervical and prostate cancers. Childhood cancers especially haematological cancers and retinoblastoma are also increasing daily”, he added.
Alausa said that the gory statistics has shown that cancer has become an emerging disease in Nigeria and of serious public health concern.
This, he said, informed the resolve of the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to take the leadership role and harness all available material and human resources within its domain to disrupt the pattern from gaining grounds or becoming established.
“I want to assure you that under this administration, we are deliberate in our commitment to vigorously address the health needs of Nigerians with particular interest in cancer care.
“This underscores my delight in the unveiling of Abuja and by extension Nigeria, as a member of City Cancer Challenge network today as a welcome development.
“We are ready to partner with City Cancer Challenge Foundation and its partners and indeed all stakeholders to advance cancer care in our country.”
Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said that the National Assembly was committed to ensuring that the Cancer Health Fund (CHF), was beefed up to meet the care needs of indigent cancer patients.
According to him, N750 million was budgeted for the fund in the 2020 Appropriation Act, to take care of the breast, cervical and prostate cancers which based on statistics are prevalent in Nigeria.
Oloriegbe who was the Senate Committee Chairman on Health of the ninth National Assembly, said that the fund as labelled in the appropriation was supposed to be a counterpart of government with a Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
“The appropriation reduced to N250 million the following year and in 2023 it came down to N150 million.
“Recently we had a meeting to talk about the implementation of that fund for more effectiveness and efficiency and we the parliamentarians are committed to increase it to one billion naira in the 2024 budget.
“We will also establish a childhood cancer care fund of N500 million”, he added.
The Director-General, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Dr Usman Aliyu, spoke about the National Cancer Research Agenda.
He said that it serves as a roadmap for collective efforts, bringing together the best minds in the field and harnessing the power of research to make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients.
He added that the agenda was centred on prevention and early detection, diagnosis and treatment, support and care as well as research and innovation.
“Through research in these areas, we aim to develop effective preventive strategies, improve early detection methods, enhance treatment options, and provide better support and care for cancer patients and survivors.
“Additionally, we emphasise the need for a strong focus on research and innovation in the areas of cancer cell biology and genomics, implementation, and behavioural science, which will be the driving force behind the development of new and more effective policies on cancer prevention and therapies.”
To achieve the goals, Aliyu said that collaboration and partnership were crucial.
He said that the National Strategic Cancer Control Plan and the National Strategic Plan for prevention of cancer of uterine cervix were products of the previous plans from the Federal Ministry of Health.
“It is our intention to ensure that we align with National Health Development Plan as well as the global strategy for elimination of cancer of the uterine cervix by the year 2030.
Also speaking at the event, the Regional Director for Africa and Europe, City Cancer Challenge (C/Can), Sophie Bussman-Kemdjo, said that the theme of the week was a powerful call to action on the disparity care for cancer.
Speaking about the C/Can initiative, she said it was aimed at supporting cities around the world as they work to improve access to equitable, quality cancer care.
“The reality is that many people living with cancer, particularly those living in countries limited by a lack of resources, don’t have a fair shot at receiving quality cancer care.
“A recent study revealed that nearly 60 per cent of the 27,000 Nigerians surveyed confront enormous barriers in accessing healthcare.
“It’s a challenge, but it is one that the C/Can initiative in Abuja is rising to meet.
“In Abuja, we have mobilised the commitment and brought together the expertise of leading organisations to work with city stakeholders to design, plan and implement data-driven, locally-driven cancer care solutions.”
According to her, C/Can which is present in 14 cities across the world will be supporting Abuja to better understand its cancer care landscape through a comprehensive analysis of the needs, gaps and opportunities, targeting critical areas for strengthening and informing a city-wide strategy.