NIGERIA— The IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has met with senior members of the Nigerian government, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, to discuss cancer care and other development priorities, such as sustainable energy.

The discussions were part of his two-day tour to Nigeria, which aimed to increase access to critical nuclear technologies for cancer treatment. It was his first official visit to the country since taking office.

Mr. Grossi was invited by First Lady Senator Oluremi Tinubu to speak at the High-level Regional Seminar on Promoting Cancer Awareness and Advocacy Programmes for member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Many first ladies who spoke at the event mentioned their countries’ partnerships with the IAEA and how these collaborations are helping drive progress towards health goals.

Both the First Lady of Gambia, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, and the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, expressed their appreciation for the IAEA’s support in establishing the first radiotherapy centers in their countries.

Dr. Bio emphasized their agenda to ensure Sierra Leone has its own facility to treat its people domestically.

Before the cancer seminar, Mr. Grossi visited the National Hospital in Abuja with Minister of Health Dr. Tunji Alausa to speak with medical staff and observe firsthand the challenges they face in maintaining key radiotherapy equipment and hiring trained experts.

During the visit, Mr. Grossi was shown a Linear Accelerator radiotherapy machine that had treated 50 patients that day but faced regular maintenance issues.

He also saw a brachytherapy machine, the only one available to serve 60 million people in the region.

Speaking during the visit, Dr. Emmanuella Nwachukwu, Head of the Radiotherapy and Oncology Department, said that they were pleased to host the Director General and demonstrate the benefits they have received from the IAEA over the last two decades.

She also shared their challenges and requests for improving radiotherapy services and cancer care at the National Hospital Abuja.

In his opening remarks at the seminar, the Director General highlighted that every day 2,000 Africans die of cancer, and approximately 80 percent of Africans do not have access to radiotherapy.

He stated that through concrete IAEA projects, the organisation will offer technology and training to doctors, oncologists, and radiotherapists to enable them to provide these services to the people.

Nigeria has requested the IAEA to coordinate an imPACT review this year to help improve its cancer control programme.

At the end of his visit, Mr. Grossi underscored the need for increased access to cancer treatment in Nigeria, stating, “We need to amplify the support. You can count on us.”

Nigeria is currently planning its own nuclear power programme with the IAEA’s support. Mr. Grossi told Mr. Akume that this is “a logical move for a country of your size and importance.”

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