AFRICA — Chad and Senegal are two of the eight pioneer countries of Rays of Hope, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) initiative to increase access to radiotherapy for cancer patients in low- and middle-income countries.

Nine months into the initiative, Chad is making preparations for its first cancer therapy center in N’Djamena and plans to launch its National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) in early 2023.

Senegal on its part has recently completed its NCCP, detailing an ambitious national objective to scale-up cancer care outside Dakar, in particular increasing access in Diamniadio.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, joined by Senegal’s President and Chairperson of the African Union, Macky Sall, among others launched Rays of Hope on World Cancer Day 2022.

Macky Sall has been an ardent champion of Rays of Hope Initiative in Senegal and the African region and most recently at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The two most common cancers on Chad and Senegal are breast cancer and cervix uteri.

Through the Rays of Hope initiative, the IAEA has provided technical advice to reinforce the cancer control programs in these participating countries with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Improving access to cancer care in Senegal

Presently, there are four operational linear accelerators — the machine most commonly used to deliver radiotherapy to cancer patients — in Senegal, each of which has capacity to treat approximately 30 patients a day, under normal conditions.

The country is also expanding its nuclear medicine services with a plan to serve other countries in the west Africa region.

The IAEA has supported Senegal in the evolution of its program on cancer care, including upgrading from 2D to 3D radiotherapy and brachytherapy in 2019, which has the benefit of producing more individualized patient treatment, better clinical outcomes, and reduced side effects.

In May 2022, at an event marking a pivotal milestone for Senegal, more than 50 national professionals from hospitals, public administration, and civil society participated in the official validation of the national NCCP for 2022-2025, alongside IAEA officials and international experts in cancer control.

While Senegal is boosting access to cancer care, Chad is decentralizing cancer care. In 2020, following the development of a bankable document with IAEA assistance to describe their planned activities to potential donors, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development mobilized over €20 million (US$20 million) in support of Chad’s cancer control activities.

In particular, the funds will be used to construct the first public center for the treatment and control of cancer in N’Djamena, the national capital.

The Rays of Hope initiative provides a concrete step for our country towards a long-term investment strategy,” said Dr. Fatima Haggar, National Coordinator of the Chadian Ministry of Public Health’s Programme on Cancer.

This perspective will allow the government to develop a set of milestones to be achieved during the next ten to fifteen years to ensure the whole population of Chad has equal access to diagnosis and treatment services.”

Chad’s NCCP for the 2022-2026 period includes the development of capacity-building programs in medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology for all categories of staff

The completion of the NCCP, along with the anticipated completion of the cancer center in 2025, brings important progress and hope for cancer patients in Chad.

Meanwhile, the IAEA joined leading cancer experts, international organizations, and national decision-makers at the 2022 World Cancer Congress (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland in October, where Agency experts emphasized the need to forge new, and expand traditional, partnerships in the global fight against cancer.

The event, held every two years, aims to explore the latest scientific developments in cancer research, identify emerging obstacles preventing access to cancer care and raise awareness ensuring that cancer remains a global health priority.

The IAEA has also recently entered into specific partnerships with GE Healthcare to train medical imaging professionals, with Japan’s Okayama University to research Boron Neutron Capture Therapy, and with the African Union to expand cooperation in cancer care.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.