UNC Project Malawi Cancer Programme co-director Dr Tamiwe Tomoka has called for equal access to cancer care for the country to effectively fight the disease and save lives.
She said this in Lilongwe yesterday during the third Annual Malawi Cancer Symposium the organisation held in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.
Funded by the National Institute of Health, the symposium sought to provide a platform for stakeholders to share ideas on how best the country can promote cancer care and fight the disease.
Tomoka said although efforts are being made to improve cancer care, more needs to be done to ensure that everyone has access to care.
She said: “Lives are being lost and the country has to put more efforts in improving access to cancer care. People in rural areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing cancer treatment.”
Tomoka also appealed for more funding for cancer care.
She said: “What saddens me is that we have people from the low socio-economic places who do not have a voice when they need cancer care or referrals. We have seen some privileged people being supported by friends or colleagues in raising funds, but what are we doing about the others?
“So, this is where we have to put our concerted efforts to ensure equal access to cancer care. I think that is the direction we have to take moving forward.”
The co-director also bemoaned inadequate infrastructure and specialists for treating cancer which she says worsens the problem of access to cancer care.
She called on government to partner the private sector and other stakeholders in developing advanced cancer centres locally.
On her part, Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda said cancer is a serious issue which government is taking seriously, adding there are a number of patients that need medical attention in the country.
She said: “It has been a challenge sending patients outside the country for treatment as it is expensive and the country cannot manage to send everyone. That is why we are working to have the National Cancer Centre in Lilongwe fully.” functional so that we can
attend to more patients locally
Chiponda said the country will soon start admission for adults at the cancer centre where currently, only children are receiving treatment.
About 19767 new cancer cases are recorded annually in the country, and the disease contributes about 50 percent of deaths from non – communicable diseases.
On Tuesday, Vice- President Saulos Chilima toured the National Cancer Centre where he indicated that the facility should be fully functional by June next year