ETHIOPIA—Ethiopia is among the 13 African nations that has been chosen  to receive enhanced support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the second phase of the Rays of Hope initiative, aimed at improving access to radiotherapy services.

Last November, Ethiopia hosted a team of cancer experts from the IAEA, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for an imPACT Review mission.

The primary goal of this mission was to contribute to the renewal of the National Cancer Control Plan, including provisions for childhood cancer, and assist the Ministry of Health in expanding regional access to radiation medicine services.

The cancer burden in Ethiopia is substantial, with an estimated 80,000 new cancer cases diagnosed among its 120 million population in 2022, resulting in 55,000 deaths.

These numbers are projected to double within the next two decades according to Globocan 2022 data.

Diagnostic imaging is crucial for all cancer patients, with approximately 50% requiring access to radiation therapy, a service currently available only at three public hospitals in the country.

However, lengthy waiting times, often exceeding a year, and late-stage diagnoses due to delayed medical intervention exacerbate the challenge.

To address this challenge, the Ethiopian government is undertaking significant efforts, including the construction of five additional radiotherapy centers across the country, namely in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Hawassa, Harar, and Mekele.

Notably, one of these centers, a comprehensive oncology facility integrated into the St. Paul Millennium Medical College’s Hospital in Addis Ababa, is being established through a pioneering public-private partnership, marking a significant advancement in cancer care in Ethiopia.

Furthermore, plans are underway to establish nine satellite clinics dedicated to pediatric cancer care.

These clinics aim to improve early detection rates, reduce treatment abandonment rates, and address the issue of late-stage diagnoses in children, who currently make up an estimated 5-7% of all cancer cases in the country.

Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Division for Africa at the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Department, emphasized the ongoing need to enhance access to cancer care, diagnostic imaging, and radiotherapy across the African continent.

He praised the progress observed during the imPACT Review mission in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s commitment to addressing the cancer burden has also garnered recognition from the WHO, which has identified the country as a CureAll Priority focus country.

This designation aligns with the WHO’s Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer objective of prioritizing childhood cancer in national cancer agendas.

Roberta Ortiz from the WHO emphasized the importance of aligning with global initiatives to combat childhood cancer and pledged continued collaboration with partners to improve survival rates among children with cancer.

During the imPACT Review mission, several local organizations, including the Tesfa Addis Parents Childhood Cancer Organization (TAPCCO) and Mathiwos Wondu YeEthiopian Cancer Society (MWECS), were commended for their efforts in providing support to families affected by childhood cancer.

These organizations offer logistical assistance, including accommodation, food, and transportation, as well as financial support for cancer treatment.

The mission also highlighted the government’s efforts in early detection and awareness of retinoblastoma, a rare childhood eye cancer, through partnerships with organizations such as the Alliance Mondiale Contre le Cancer.

Collectively, these initiatives underscore Ethiopia’s steadfast commitment to addressing the cancer burden and expanding access to cancer care for all its citizens.

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.