World Cancer Day 2014

The world observes World Cancer Day every 4th of February, and this year as we commemorate this day, we realize now more than ever of the need for a global commitment to encourage implementation of comprehensive Cancer Control Plans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2008 report cited non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as the leading cause of global mortality, accounting for 63 per cent of deaths. Eighty per cent of these deaths occurred in low and middle income countries with a majority of these deaths mainly due to cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

In 2011, heads of state and governments adopted the UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs [.pdf] which recognized NCDs as a global health and development priority.  WHO member states adopted a global target of 25 per cent reduction in premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases by 2025.

For decades, Africa has been grappling with the challenge of reducing cases of communicable diseases albeit with limited resources.  Just as headway is being made by governments, civil society organizations, private sector and international communities the continent is being hit by the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Every year, 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide. Yet lives could have been saved with adequate education and awareness about the disease.  While deaths associated with NCDs are declining in the developed world, they are increasing in the developing countries where it is estimated that about 80 per cent of those people who die prematurely from NCDs are from the low and middle income countries.

AMREF is therefore calling on governments and individuals to take action by reducing stigma and dispelling myths about cancer that inhibit people from seeking timely treatment  and having routine checkups.  AMREF is urging partners to be the source of information in order to lead to positive change at an individual, community and policy level and across the continuum of cancer care.   We have a collective responsibility to support nations that are tackling a cancer epidemic with insufficient resources.

Cancer poses a potentially serious problem for economies because of increased health care costs as a result of the high cost of treatment associated with the disease.  This therefore negatively impacts on a country’s economic competitiveness, puts additional fiscal pressures on ministries of health, leads to poor health outcomes, and to poverty, inequity and opportunity loss for individuals.

AMREF therefore encourages healthy lifestyles and health seeking behaviour, and integrates these in all of its programme activities.  We also advocate for screening programs, universal access to medication and treatment and other affordable technologies. AMREF continues to work with like-minded partners to progress in the right direction.

To reduce the cancer burden, appropriate efforts are necessary, particularly in the areas of planning, vaccination for HPV and HBV against cervical cancer, early detection and screening for breast and cervical cancers, access to essential medicines and technologies, and palliative care policies.

To succeed, it is imperative to integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.