The World Health Organization (WHO) has tasked African leaders with the urgent need to prioritize the prevention of cancer care by investing hugely in it.
Describing the cancer situation in Africa as distressing, the organization warned that without prompt action, cancer-related deaths in the region could reach approximately one million per year by 2030.
It also noted that within two decades, cancer death rates in Africa are expected to surpass the global average of 30%.
In a statement marking the 2024 World Cancer Day (WCD), Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, underscored the importance of the call.
Moeti lamented the alarming statistics, revealing that in 2022, the WHO African Region saw approximately 882,882 new cancer cases, leading to around 573,653 deaths.
According to Moeti, the relevance of this year’s commemorative theme, ‘Together, we challenge those in power’ aptly encapsulates the worldwide call for leaders to prioritize and invest in cancer prevention and care, while urging them to take decisive actions toward achieving a just and cancer-free Africa.
He said: “The cancer situation in Africa is disheartening. In the year 2022, approximately 882 882 new cancer cases occurred in the WHO African Region with around 573 653 deaths.
“About 50% of new cancer cases in adults in the region are due to breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancers.
“If urgent measures are not taken, cancer mortality in the region is projected to reach about one million deaths per year by 2030.
“Also, in 20 years, cancer death rates in Africa will overtake the global average of 30%.
“This is more so because cancer survival rates in the WHO African region currently average 12%, much lower than the average of over 80% in High-Income Countries.”
While acknowledging the efforts made by African leaders in preventing the disease over the years, Moeti stressed the necessity to intensify these endeavors for the ultimate goal of making Africa free from cancer.
He said: “Nevertheless, we commend the progress made in cancer prevention and care in our region.
“For instance, 17 countries have introduced high-performance-based screening tests in line with the WHO recommendations.
“Also, 28 of our Member States have introduced nationwide HPV vaccination to reach about 60% of the priority population targeted with HPV vaccination.
“This year’s theme is auspicious as it reinforces all persons and groups’ universal right to health.
We believe that regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, and gender, every person must be afforded an equal chance at the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
“We call on the region’s countries, communities, partners, and civil society to unite and foster universal access to cancer prevention and care.
“Stakeholders must identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based population-wide interventions and invest in cancer control.
“Countries should use the updated WHO Best Buys, the facilitative tool designed to enable governments to select lifesaving policies and interventions for non-communicable diseases.
“Leaders are responsible for ensuring that cancer prevention and care deploy technologies and therapies that are available at low cost to affected persons and their families, which are value for money.
“Furthermore, countries should strengthen information systems to gather quality data for decision-making.
“We reiterate that civil society, especially organizations of cancer survivors or persons with lived cancer experiences, are critical in the fight against cancer in Africa.
“Such a whole-of-society approach to cancer prevention and care is the essence of this year’s World Cancer Day theme.
“Together, we challenge those in power” to go the extra mile for a cancer-free Africa.”