The founder, Medicaid Cancer Foundation, MCF, and First Lady of Kebbi State governor, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, has stressed that Africa’s cancer control plans must jump out of printed pages of newspapers and magazines, and be translated into well-funded programmes.
Mrs Bagudu made her position known on Thursday during a Webinar of Africa’s Cancer CEOs Forum on the state of cancer control amidst COVID-19, hosted by Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
Mrs Bagudu, who is also a board member at the Union for International Cancer Control, UICC, called for decentralization of cancer control, “in order to rapidly turn around the current cancer care narrative in Nigeria”.
According to her, the transformation of the health care delivery system in Africa can be achieved since the continent could record success in control and eradication of some infectious diseases like Polio, of which the continent was declared free.
Mrs Bagudu stressed that governments across the continent, as a matter of urgency, must drive cancer policies and practices to control these incidences.
The Kebbi First Lady, therefore, noted that there was a need for governments at all levels, most especially in Nigeria to localize and own the national cancer control plans whilst prioritising awareness and prevention intervention through funding.
“In Nigeria, we need to launch an acoustic national control plan that has largely gone unfunded, and have the legislation in place for the institution of a national institute of cancer research and treatment.
“Implementing this excellent policy commitment, will transform cancer care in the landscape for delivering prevention and optimise cancer treatment programmes for Nigerians,” she added.
The MCF founder lamented that COVID-19 pandemic has unfairly impacted on cancer patients, exposing great cancer care gaps in high-income countries and understandably more so in low-income countries.
She said: “Prior to the pandemic, patients travel significant distances to access services amidst other issues of weak health issues besieged by inadequate funding.
“These realities demand that we institute resilient public health systems prioritising primary health care delivery, programmes that deliver disease prevention and ensuring equitable access to specialist medical services,” she added.
While thanking Health Minister Ehanire for his personal endorsement in her bid for re-election into the UICC board this year, Mrs Bagudu declared that Nigeria as a giant of Africa has to show a very good example, “particularly as we head towards the elimination of cervical cancer by 2030”.
Earlier in his remarks, Mr Ehanire lamented that there was limited data to show the accurate magnitude of cancer burden in the African continent.
He said: “While we urge for control of preventable cancers like cervical cancer by 2030 is a target in many parts of the world, national cancer screening is still a novel concept in our continent, and it is a continent of over 1.3 billion people, 80% of Africa is yet to have access to the human papillomavirus vaccines (HPV).
“Africa clearly has a lot of roles to play to catch on cancer control efforts. In Nigeria the federal government is committed to the introduction of HPV into the routine immunization schedule, by the first quarter of 2021. We shall put it in our budget, and we shall match our words with action.
“Nigeria is strongly committed to achieving the world cancer organisation global target of 90% coverage of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of girls, 70% coverage of cervical screening and 90% treatment of cervical cancer by 2030. We have demonstrated these by achieving success in HIV/AID, and we can do it again.
“I wish to assure our citizens and partners that we shall welcome you to work with the government in Nigeria towards elimination of cervical cancer.
“The challenge of cancer control in Nigeria is not only lack of early detection, but also lack of early treatment.
“Many persons also suffer from financial barriers present with the cancer diagnosis, but are unable to access cancer treatment early enough due to the costs.
“In the 2020 budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, almost 730,000,000 was appropriated for the catastrophic health fund,” he said.
The minister, therefore, pledged that the federal ministry of health would ensure that funds to support the treatment of indigent Nigerians diagnosed with breast, cervical or prostate cancer is released to increase access to cancer treatment to Nigerians.
He added that the seven federal tertiary health institutions designated as oncology centres of excellence are presently being upgraded with physiotherapy equipment, such as linear accelerators and complementary equipment such as city scans, C-arms and stimulators.
“In addition, we have introduced the cancer access partnership, a programme to improve cancer medicines at more than 50% cost reduction working in collaboration with American cancer society and the Clinton health access initiative.
“There is an ongoing stakeholder meeting to expand this programme, to include more pharmaceutical companies, a wider spectrum of medicine and more participating health facilities to improve the enhanced benefits to Nigerians.
“In 2018, Nigeria launched a national cancer control plan with a budget of 380 million USD to control cancer, and also 192 million dollars for prevention over the next five years.
“The federal government is now encouraging all states to also take up this cancer plan and make investment to save lives. If the state government invests in cancer control, we shall increase the chances of early cancer detection in Nigeria, and therefore improve the outcomes.”
The federal government, according to Mr Ehanire, had sustained benefits of public private partnership in Nigeria’s sovereign investment authority in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, in the advanced cancer treatment centre.
“According to a report in 2016, Nigeria spent over 1 billion dollars on medical tourism annually. A similar collaboration between public and private sectors can meet historical demand for treatment services in the country.
“I therefore endorsed public private investment as a desirable option in cancer control, and I commit the federal ministry of health to providing the enabling environment for such partnership to thrive.
“It is gratifying to see many non-governmental organisations creating awareness and engaging the government on cancer control. I commend all African cancer CEOS, who have joined us today, and her excellency Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, the wife of governor of Kebbi State and CEO and founder of MedicAid Cancer Foundation, particularly stand out as one who has laid advocacy servical efforts in Nigeria, and in Africa and also globally.
“I was delighted to learn of her election to the board of union for international cancer control in 2018, and I will very strongly recommend Dr. Bagudu as a strong candidate for a second term this year.
“I wish to congratulate you Dr. Shinkafi for co-founding the CSO coalition against cervical cancer commend all your work with first ladies across the country,” he said.
The health minister clarified that cancer is not a women problem alone, saying that despite the laudable success of first ladies in driving cancer control intervention, it is also the responsibility of all state governors, commissioners and policy makers to participate.
“I also thank the African organisations for research and training in cancer, and all organisations in Africa who work to reduce the cancer burden in Nigeria and Africa even though Covid-19 has challenged our countries, we must not relent in our efforts to build health systems that are resilient and proactive to the needs of African population.
“A time for government, civil societies, and other stakeholders to commit to cancer control is now. We can do this if we have a shared goal as we join forces as from today,” Mr Ehanire added.