The World Health Organisation, WHO, has urged Africa to take urgent measures against the increasing rate of cancer mortality in the region.
WHO has projected cancer mortality to reach one million deaths annually by year 2030.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, issued the alert in a message to mark World Cancer Day 2024 which has the theme, “Together, We Challenge Those in Power”.
Moeti described the rate of cancer prevalence in Africa as lamentable.
She, therefore, called for concerted efforts against the disease through awareness campaigns on fundamental cancer issues.
She expressed the belief that the public had a frontal role to play in spearheading the annual awareness day and beyond.
“Between 2022 and 2024, the focus of World Cancer Day is to help ‘Close the cancer gap’.
“This year marks the third and final year of the campaign.
“This theme encompasses the global demand for leaders to prioritise and invest in cancer prevention and care and to do more to achieve a just and cancer-free world,” she said.
According to her, WHO regrets the ugly statistics of cancer cases in Africa.
She warned that if proactive measures were not taken, the death toll could rise from more than 500,000 in 2022 to one million per year by 2030.
“In the year 2022, approximately 882,882 new cancer cases occurred in the WHO African Region with 573,653 deaths.
“More than 50 per cent 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 rate in Africa could overtake the global average of 30 per cent,” Moeti said.
She observed that the situation was the way it was because cancer survival rate in the WHO African region currently averages 12 per cent, much lower than the average of above 80 per cent in high-income countries.
The director called on the African governments, communities, partners, and civil society to unite and foster universal access to cancer prevention and care.
Moeti acknowledged the progress that has been made in cancer prevention and care, with 17 countries introducing high-performance-based screening tests and 28 member states of WHO implementing nationwide HPV vaccination.
She advised stakeholders to identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based population-wide interventions, and invest in cancer control.
Moeti further advised African countries to use the updated WHO Best Buys, the facilitative tool designed to enable governments to select lifesaving policies and interventions for noncommunicable diseases.