Speaking during a media breakfast as a build-up to commemorate this year’s World Cancer Day, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH) Mr. James Macharia said that hospices in the country have previously depended on charity.
“If you visit these hospices across the country, they actually survive on charity and yet we are a government putting together Ksh. 98 billion in a budget for the MoH. We have committed that we shall include palliative care as part of our budgetary process in the 2014-2015 financial year.” Mr. Macharia said.
He said that relying on charity for these hospices to operate cannot be allowed to continue.
While addressing the cancer situation, Mr. Macharia indicated that the country has a shortage of oncologists to address the high number of cancer cases in the country.
It is estimated that 28,000 new cases of cancer are reported each year in Kenya with more than 22,000 deaths per year.
The cabinet secretary equated this number of deaths to about 55 jumbo jets crashing and killing everybody in a year.
“Even if one jumbo jet carrying 400 Kenyans crashes, it will be a story to be told across the year. How come this story of cancer killing an equivalent number per year is not sensitized enough?” Wondered the Cabinet Secretary.
Up to 80% of the reported cases are diagnosed at advanced stages when very little can be done to manage the disease due to low awareness about signs and symptoms, social cultural beliefs and practices, inadequate screening services and inadequately equipped referral facilities.
“Cancer is costing the country not just emotional stress but also financial stress. Up to 10,000 people fly out of the country in a year for treatment at a cost Ksh. 7billion. This shows the magnitude of the cancer problem in the country.” He said.
The Cabinet Secretary said that Kenya has about 12 trained Oncologists/Cancer experts to treat this high number of cancer cases in public hospitals.
He noted that these few available specialists are concentrated around Nairobi making it difficult for the majority of people to access cancer management services.
“The government is well aware of this situation and is making efforts to address it comprehensively through implementation of the National Cancer Control Strategy, which is already in place,” said Mr. Macharia.
The strategy provides a roadmap to promote cancer control management through a variety of interventions. It aims to advance cancer prevention and control through early detection, improved diagnosis and treatment including palliative care as well as promoting cancer surveillance, establishment of registries and research.
“We need to do a lot more and that is why we shall be working with global players to help us train more people in this area of medicine.” Mr. Macharia said.
The Cabinet Secretary said that the MoH has availed CT scan machines in five countries and in the referral hospitals, purchased eleven mammography equipment for county referral institutions and availed a lot of other diagnostic equipment.
In, addition to this, Mr. Macharia said that Kenyatta National Hospital Oncology team conducts outreach cancer clinics on a monthly basis in Mombasa, Nyeri and Kisumu besides the Ministry working towards establishing new regional cancer treatment centers in Kenya.
The World Cancer Day theme for this year is, ‘Reduce Stigma and dispel myths about cancer’ under the tagline ‘Debunk the myths.’
He urged the media fraternity to join in the fight against cancer by raising awareness on risk factors, promoting early screening and debunking the myths.