The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has officially launched resource mobilization campaign to finance its full-fledged cancer treatment and research center in Addis Ababa.
According to the information obtained from the regional block, member countries of the block recently chose Ethiopia unanimously to host the regional cancer treatment center to address the growing concern of the prevalence of cancer in the regions.
The plan has been in the works for past six years before finally arriving at the decision to build the cancer center in Addis Ababa.
According to IGAD, the center is expected to cost five to 10 million dollars in investments which IGAD hopes to source form international donors and member countries contributions.
In a bid to secure the required budget, IGAD held a two-day resources mobilization and sensitization event that was held on Wednesday and Thursday here in Addis Ababa at the Conference Hall of the UNECA.
Each year, an estimated 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.9 million lose their lives globally. Cancer is the cause for about 20 percent of deaths in industrialized nations and 5-10 percent in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization.
The most common cancer cases in Africa are cervix, breast, liver and prostate but since 2008 new cancer cases and deaths have occurred and the numbers are expected to double in the coming 20 years due to population growth and aging.
In response to its growing burden in the region, the IGAD Secretariat has been collaborating over the past few years with several partners including the African Diaspora in North America led by the Ethiopian North American Health Providers Associations (ENAHPA) and the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
It was also noted this center is also expected to serve as center of excellence, high quality treatment, detection and serves as research center whereby health professionals will build their capacity and undertake research activities.
Particularly, the center is aimed at offering scholarship for a member country’s health professionals that includes facilitating opportunities for research and investigation into the magnitude and severity of cancer in the region.
So far, the prevalence of cancer and its overall magnitude in the region is not clearly known as there were no scientifically-based research outputs which show the accurate data and picture. Hence the center is expected to fill this gap.
Studies show that the main challenge of cancer treatment is lack of radiotherapy machine which is the most important equipment to undertake early treatment among cancer patients. This treatment machine is in short supply across the region.
According to IGAD’s Health and Education Consultant, Tsion Demeke (MD), in Ethiopia there is only one radiotherapy machine which serves the general population.
Describing the challenging nature of cancer treatment in Ethiopia, Tsion said: “Because of the shortage of this machine nationwide, patients have to wait for at least 16 to 17 months for diagnosis.”
In addition to the equipment shortage, member countries are facing serious threats of brain drain as the existing limited number of cancer specialist are fleeing their region for better income abroad. Hence, the center also aims at addressing this issue by offering better situation for home grown specialists.
Studies also suggest that unless early actions and precautionary mechanisms are devised, cancer will kill one million people by 2030 particularly in low and middle income countries.
Hence, the center is believed to play a key role in training health professionals, providing early cancer detection and treatments mechanisms, and also serving as a source of regional data hub and research center.