One of the main challenges that continue to bedevil Africa, decades after many African countries acquired their full autonomy from the colonizers, is poor health. Despite the many efforts made by African governments to improve their respective health sectors, millions of Africans continue to die due to lack of proper health care.
Aside from dealing with unpredicted disease outbreaks such as Ebola, Africa is also struggling to cope with ancient ailments such as cancer. In fact, cancer still remains the deadliest disease in Africa, with the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting that at least one million people in Africa will be dying of cancer annually by 2030.
This means that cancer will be killing more people in Africa than anywhere else in the world. It also implies that cancer will be deadlier than HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and other infectious diseases.
“Non-communicable diseases – including cancer – have become more prominent in Africa over the last decade, as a result of longer life expectancy due to improved health care and changes in lifestyle. By 2030, 1.4 million new cancer cases and 1 million deaths are foreseen in Africa,” WHO writes.
The international health organization points out that for African governments to be able to reduce the burden of cancer they have to make long-term investments and commitments, particularly in the establishment and improvement of radiotherapy facilities on the continent.
It further advises governments and other stakeholders to regularly collect and analyze data about cancer patients, adding that this information is critical in helping authorities to come up with the right policies of dealing with the cancer menace.
“Governments, together with partners from the international health community, should train experts to strengthen existing registries and establish new ones. Registries are essential for compiling and analyzing the data, and making it available to researchers and policy makers,” WHO advices.
In an effort to minimize the pangs of cancer in Africa, two international pharmaceutical companies, working in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, have promised to significantly lower the cost of cancer drugs in Africa.
Under this plan, the two companies: Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai, are expected to make chemotherapy medicines cheaply available in six underdeveloped African countries, including The Gambia, Uganda and Kenya.
According to the New York Times, the companies have promised to offer the much-needed drugs at extremely low prices to enable poor cancer patients to access affordable treatment.
Experts have hailed this plan as a phenomenal idea with a perfect chance of turning the tide against cancer. They are also optimistic that the cheap drugs will help to eliminate counterfeits that have recently flooded the African market.
However, some pundits are a bit hesitant in approving the plan because they are not certain about its sustainability. But according to the president of Pfizer’s essential health group, John Young, the two companies do not expect to make profits from the plan.
He adds they will only charge a small fee to cover just their manufacturing and packaging costs.
Overall, majority of Africans have welcomed the plan, saying it will take the heavy burden of costly cancer treatment off their shoulders.