World cancer day: FG establishes 6 new cancer centres to improve access to care

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By Blessing Bature 

As the world commemorate 2024 world cancer day, the Federal Government of Nigeria has reiterated commitment to improve access to cancer care by establishing 6 new Cancer Centres in the 6 geopolitical zones of the country with brachytherapy machines and other equipment.

The Minister of state for  Health and social welfare, Dr. Tunji Alausa in a press statement said this during a press briefing in commemoration of the 2024 World Cancer Day with the theme ‘Closing the Cancer Care Gap’ with emphasis on “Together, we can challenge those in power”, adding that the theme is very apt and timely as it seeks to address the dichotomy between different social classes with respect to access to cancer care. 

He said it was in view of this that the Nigerian Government is establishing 6 new Cancer Centres of Excellence in the following Hospitals – UNTH Enugu South-East, ABUTH Zaria, FTH Katsina North-West, UBTH Benin South-South, JUTH Jos North Central,  and LUTH, Lagos South West,  while UMTH Maiduguri is being upgraded North-East across the 6 geopolitical zones  country with brachytherapy machines and other equipment. 

Alausa added that the ministry is currently implementing the National Policy on Hospice and Palliative care and the national policy on Chemotherapy Safety which were launched in 2021. “This year is the midterm of their implementation. The Ministry will take steps to review the level of implementation of the 2 policy documents with the view to ensuring optimal uptake by the Healthcare providers across the country.”

He said that the ministry have equally  taken several steps to address cancer challenges in the country among them are;

Primary prevention through vaccination, early detection, prompt treatment and Research. The Ministry through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency NPHCDA is leading the Human Papilloma virus vaccination for primary prevention of cancer of the Cervix, as well as the Hepatitis immunization for prevention of liver cancers. Cervical and liver cancers happen to be the second and the fourth commonest cancers in Nigeria respectively. 

Another measure he said is the Vaccination for viral hepatitis which is on the National Programme on immunization, HPV Vaccination that commenced in 2023, and  enjoined parents, opinion leaders and indeed all stakeholders to take advantage of the immunization programmes. The vaccine is free, very safe and highly efficacious in preventing these  cancers.

The National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment NICRAT recently created and mandated by law to provide leadership in the area of cancer research and treatment.  

“We have just recently moved the Cancer Health Fund that is coordinated and housed in the Ministry NICRAT  to provide prompt and unhindered access the Cancer Health Fund to the indigent Nigeria who needs this for efficiency particularly timeliness and sustainability. The Ministry will continue to provide its oversight and policy direction for the fund.  

The National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022 has made Health Insurance mandatory for all Nigerians. We have also provided that strategic guidance for NHIA to enroll all Nigerians including cancer patients into health insurance. This will go a long way in reducing the cost of cancer care in the country. 

The NHIA will ultimately manage funding for cancer care in the future, to avoid duplication of roles in terms of purchase of services for all patients. Recently, the operational guideline of the NHIA Act was launched to pave the way for full operationalization of the Act, which also provides for Funding for vulnerable Nigerians including cancer patients. 

While commending all the bilateral and multilateral organizations, Non-governmental organizations, pharmaceutical and Equipment manufacturers who have been collaborating with the ministry in the management of Cancer in Nigeria, enjoined all stakeholders to continue to partner with the Ministry and all the agencies to implement the programmes and activities meant to provide robust cancer care services in the country, so that together, we can close the cancer care gap in Nigeria.