The Executive Director of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi, has advocated for the establishment of an agency that will properly handle the financing of cancer issues in Nigeria.
Magashi made the call on Thursday in Abuja during a media engagement to mark the World Cancer Day.
She said the establishment of the agency was necessary to ensure effective utilisation of funds budgeted for cancer treatment in the country.
It was reported that the media engagement was organised by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), AHBN and the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS) to commemorate this year’s World Cancer Day.
It was also reported that the theme for this year is: “I am and I will” play my part to reduce the burden of cancer.
Magashi stated that the one billion naira budgeted for cancer treatment and prevention was hanging in the bank because there was no financing mechanism for the utilisation of the fund.
“We have one billion naira in the bank for this project, but the major stakeholders and the government have not reached common grounds on how to utilise the fund.
“Based on this lingering delay, we want a permanent structure to tackle cancer financing issues.
“Also, we want the current committee by the Ministry of Health to include NCS and NMA. We want transparency and accountability.
“This is no time to include family and friends in committees at the expense of people with the wealth of knowledge.
“We want people who understand the challenges we face. People are dying from these diseases and we cannot sit by and watch. We want the ministry to do the right thing,” she said.
Also speaking on the occasion, Dr Adamu Umar, President of NCS, said that the five years survival span of cancer patients in the country was abysmally low.
According to her, it is because of the multiple factors including, but not limited to; “late presentation, lack of awareness, weak health infrastructure, poverty and high cost of cancer treatment with associated catastrophic impact on family finances.”
Umar said the NCS would continue to ensure that every cancer patient in the country has access to standard care, without undue catastrophic impact on their family finances, which was one of the society’s cardinal goals.
“The collaboration with Africa Health Budget Network and the Nigerian Medical Association is to explore avenues to achieving this goal.
“Moving forward, we will set up proper mechanisms to ensure cancer related funds in the budget are released and judiciously spent, particularly the catastrophic cancer fund,” he noted.
The NCS President stressed that the association would also ensure that the International Cancer Centre is reactivated and put to use to benefit the growing population of cancer patients in the country.
“It is more than a decade since the idea was conceptualised and it is yet to see the light of the day. We in the NCS see a missed opportunity to provide affordable cancer services in the abandoned project.
“We are, therefore, prioritising advocacy for the reactivation of this laudable project.
“Through raising the public and political literacy and understanding around cancer, we reduce fear, increase understanding, dispel myths and misconceptions, and change behaviours and attitudes,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to ensure that everyone became an advocate towards achieving the goal.
While declaring the event open, Dr Yusuf Tanko Sununu, the Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services, expressed worry over cancer death-related cases in the country.
Sununu said that there was the need to create more awareness on the dangers of cancer in the country.
He added that the National Assembly would ensure that money budgeted for cancer was judiciously used.
“We will do our best at the National Assembly to ensure the wellbeing of Nigerians. My committee will stand by its mandate and do what is best for Nigerians, “he said.