BUJUMBURA February 21st (ABP) – The Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), Mental Health (MH) and Health Promotion (HP) Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Jérôme Ndaruhutse, said that “cancer is a major public health problem”. It was on the occasion of the celebration of World Cancer Day in the city of Bujumbura.
He said that each year, Africa registers about 1.1 million new cases of cancer and up to 700,000 deaths from the disease. “If forecasts are to be believed, in the absence of urgent and bold action, cancer mortality will rise dramatically to nearly one million deaths per year by 2030”, he clarified. He also recalled that the most common cancers in adults are breast cancers (16.5%), cervical cancer (13.1%), and prostate cancer (9.4%) to which are added colorectal cancer (6%) and liver cancer (4.6%). Despite considerable data challenges, childhood cancer incidence is estimated at 56.3 cases per million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. That health professional did not fail to point out that current projections indicate that Africa will bear nearly 50% of the global burden of childhood cancer by 2050, which will require the rapid deployment of necessary efforts to deal with this situation.
He further informed that 12 countries in the region have valid national cancer control plans. The WHO provides support to 11 other countries, including Burundi, with regard to the development or updating of their national cancer control plans. According to him, despite some achievements, many obstacles remain to be overcome. These are the low availability of population-based cancer registration registries, the limited level of health promotion, insufficient access to primary prevention and early detection services and the shortage of diagnostic facilities, all factors that prolong the delays in diagnosis and treatment. He also added that the provision of palliative care is rare in Africa, despite the high demand recorded. Africa has only 3% of cancer treatment facilities in the world and only 22 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa offer radiotherapy services, hence the low survival rate recorded on the continent, he added. He ended by inviting the people of Burundi to fight against cancer by choosing healthy lifestyles, getting vaccinated and doing systematic testing against preventable cancers. Parents are responsible for ensuring that their eligible daughters receive the human papillomavirus vaccine. He called on the government of Burundi to speed up the updating of the national cancer control plan, to ensure sustainable funding and to invest in the registration of cancer cases. Burundi is also advised to integrate cancer care into essential benefit programs and the national health insurance system.
For Burundi, it is also essential to set up the necessary health facilities, taking into account human resources, as well as testing, diagnosis and treatment needs. It will also be necessary to expand the use of digital health and provide relevant training for cancer personnel.