African first ladies join fight against cancer

Top Stories Zimbabwe

Takudzwa Chihambakwe

Today, (February 4), United Nations member states commemorate World Cancer Day which seeks to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly one in six deaths is due to cancer and the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next two decades.

Seeing the magnitude of the work that needs to be done in bringing awareness and prevention, African first ladies have joined the fight against the deadly disease in collaboration with Merck Foundation of Germany.

The partnership seeks to build cancer care capacity with the aim of increasing the limited number of oncologists across the continent.

In a statement, Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa said Merck Foundation will provide the valuable oncology training to young Zimbabwean doctors.

“We are very excited about it as it will empower healthcare professionals in our country with advanced training and medical expertise in overall oncology care. This will help the people of our country to fight this deadly disease,” she said.

Merck’s Chief Executive Officer, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said her foundation will keep striving to make African healthcare professionals highly competent and fully independent by providing the best in class multidisciplinary oncology and cancer care training to young doctors from all over Africa.

“I am proud of our success to reshape and advance the public cancer care sector and to increase the limited number of oncologists by more than 70 new oncologists to be the first in 24 countries,” said Dr Kalej.

“We are definitely making history in Africa through training the first oncologists and first cancer care teams in many countries such as; The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad, and Niger. Our key objective is to provide quality and equitable care to patients who never had anyone to care for them before,” she said.

Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Programme, has to date trained more than 70 Oncologists from 24 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, and Ghana among others.