Kenya’s 5-year cancer strategy gathers dust at Health Ministry

FILE - A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center ...
FILE - A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, July 26, 2012.

An estimated 90 people succumbing to cancer daily in Kenya.

The lack of understanding of the disease has led to late diagnosis and ineffective management of the disease.

Kenya’s five-year cancer strategy was designed to guide interventions towards prevention and control, easing the existing burden.

However, a critical look leaves more questions than answers on how serious the government is on rescuing Kenyans from the jaws of the killer disease.

According to the strategy that seems to be gathering dust at the Health ministry, the government is supposed to reduce cancer incidences, monitor mortality as well as improve survival rate and quality of life of patients.

In addition, the cancer control strategy set up for 2017 to 2022 tasks the government to fully equip the Kenyatta National Hospital as well as the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret with world class cancer infrastructure and equipment.

It was expected that the two centers would act as the country’s cancer referrals to reduce the number of patients traveling abroad for medication.

The government was also expected to establish at least four comprehensive regional cancer treatment centres distributed in the 47 counties.

To date, the government is yet to actualise the life-saving move with the national governments and the county governments still entangled in a blame game over devolving the health function.

This leaves resources stuck at Treasury, with the only hope being the government’s talk of plans to have the cancer centres set up.

The cancer control strategy report further tasked the government to strengthen county and sub-county hospitals to provide surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care, including outpatient and inpatient hospice care.

With the cancer menace now threatening to rise by about 70 percent in 20 years time according to the report, MPs are demanding an immediate implementation of the strategy that also includes intensive public education on lifestyle changes.

In July 2016, India MP Norendra Modi and President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to build a multi-billion-shilling cancer treatment centre in Kenya, a project that is yet to get to the ground breaking stage, despite Kenyans thronging New Delhi to seek cancer treatment.

Even as the country debates on the fading hope of battling cancer, Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga has presented before the National Assembly a Cancer Bill that seeks to make screening mandatory to ensure early detection.

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