As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate this year’s World Cancer Day (WCD), the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has highlighted some of the efforts made by the Federal Government in combating the dreaded cancer disease.
Addressing Stakeholders at a Press Briefing, Monday, in Abuja, Ehanire said the annual commemoration of World Cancer Day provides United Nations member States, national and multinational cancer organizations, and opinion leaders around the world, the opportunity to showcase their various efforts in improving the quality of life of cancer patients, advancement and increased investment in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and research.
According to the Minister: “The theme of the 2023 World Cancer Day ‘Closing the Cancer Care Gap’ seeks to address the dichotomy between different social classes in respect of access to care. The Federal Ministry of Health under my leadership has achieved several ‘FIRSTs’ in improving access to quality and affordable cancer services nationwide.
“The Federal Ministry of Health collaborated with partners to introduce the Cancer Access Partnership (CAP) Programs, to provide quality anticancer medicines to patients at 50% of the market price. The CAP program currently operates in Sixteen (16) Tertiary Hospitals, but I have now approved the inclusion of all Tertiary Hospitals across the country.
“Furthermore, I approved the inclusion of diagnostic services, such as immunohistochemistry (IHC) in the CAP Program for optimal cancer management. The CAP program exists in about 10 other countries, but Nigeria CAP is the first among them to implement so others are being tutored by us to strengthen their programs since we have made a great impact with over 3,500 cancer patients currently accessing care on the program, Ehanire said.”
Other milestones recorded according to him include the establishment of the Cancer Health Fund (CHF) for comprehensive treatment of cancers of the breast, cervix, and prostate to indigent patients, at no cost, in all six geopolitical zones, with over 431 patients currently benefiting from the Fund.
“Federal government has sustained the budget line for four years, a demonstration of rare commitment to close the cancer care gap between rich and poor in our society. Plans are underway to add at least six more cancer treatment centers to the inventory and ensure a wider reach of the Fund.
“Steps are also being taken to improve cancer services to children, working with development partners for access to comprehensive treatment for childhood cancers which require particular attention.”
Ehanire also explained that the Ministry was collaborating with the global community, to give priority attention to cervical Cancer, the second most common cancer in Nigeria, with an effort to eliminate the cancer of the cervix by the year 2030 in line with the WHO target.
“To this end, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine is being introduced into the National Program on Immunization, as we scale up secondary cancer prevention interventions being funded by UNitaid, through the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). The program started in Lagos, Rivers, and Kaduna States and now scaled up to involve Niger, Kebbi, Ondo, and Ekiti States, the Minster added.”
Similarly, the Minister informed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved a special intervention fund for the upgrade and establishment of radiotherapy services in Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Maiduguri, and the Federal Teaching Hospital Katsina.
Also in this category according to Ehanire include the provision of Nuclear Medicine facilities at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, and Federal Teaching Hospital in Katsina.
Other achievements as reeled out by the Minister include the Development and launch of a National Policy on Chemotherapy Safety (ChemoSafe) in October 2021, implemented in collaboration with the American Cancer Society and other partners, the Development and launch of a National Policy and Strategic Plan on Hospice and Palliative care in October 2021 and Approval of review of National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022) as well as the National Strategic Plan for Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021).
In a related development, the Minister also used the occasion to virtually commission Brachytherapy Machines in five Teaching Hospitals across the country. The hospitals are National Hospital Abuja (NHA) Abuja, the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) Benin, University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) Zaria while hinting that Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) Sokoto would follow at a later date.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, of Health, Alhaji Mahmud Mamman, ably represented by the Director, of Health Planning Research and Statistics, Dr. Ngozi Azodo, informed that in a bid to institutionalize cancer care for all, the Federal Government has issued circulars, making mandatory for all cancer patients in Tertiary Health Institutions across the country to be reviewed by a Multidisciplinary Tumour Board (MDT) for best cancer treatment outcomes while ensuring that the best range of infrastructure and anticancer medicines are provided for optimum treatment outcomes of cancer patients in the country.
The Permanent Secretary also said that the Ministry is making concerted efforts to ensure that relevant policies and guidelines are available to guide all Healthcare workers to provide quality services comparable to what is obtainable in other developed countries.
In her welcome address, the Director and Head, of the Department of Hospital Services, Dr. Salma Anas Ibrahim, represented by the Coordinator, of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr. Okpikpi Okpako noted that the theme for this year’s WCD was unique and timely in the era where there is gross inequity in terms of access to cancer care between and within nations.
Apart from the several efforts being made towards addressing the challenges of all cancers holistically, the Director explained that special attention is being paid to preventable cancers and improved access to diagnostic and treatment capacities of healthcare workers and institutions through training and retraining as well as comprehensive cancer care, ranging from early detection, right diagnosis and accessible treatment including affordable chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy.
Present at the occasion were stakeholders and development partners including the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) among others, who took turns to give their goodwill messages.
Deputy Director/Head (FMoH Media & Public Relations Unit)