First rural cancer centre in Rwanda opens next week
The first National Cancer Referral Centre in Rural East Africa will be officially opened on Wednesday, 18 July.
The Centre, which is housed within the premises of Butaro Hospital in northern rural Rwanda, is part of the country’s five-year national plan to introduce cancer prevention, screening and treatment. It will serve as the first national cancer referral facility in rural Rwanda and East Africa.
The Minister of Health, Agnes Binagwaho, noted that a lot of effort is being put into the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases besides the significant strides in combating major infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
“The new Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence not only comes at an appropriate time, but also feeds well into this vision and adds value to the interventions we have designed in combating Non-Communicable Diseases. We appreciate the role of our partners in making this dream of screening, diagnosing, and treating some cancers become a reality in our country,” Dr.Binagwaho said.
Paul Farmer, the co-founder for Partners in Health and chair of Harvard’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, called for similar commitment to address cancer akin to that of HIV/AIDS.
“Just a few years ago, we had no system or financing mechanism to diagnose and treat AIDS in Africa. People said it was too expensive or too complicated. But today, nearly 7 million people in developing countries are receiving treatment for HIV. We can do the same with cancer,” said Paul Farmer.
However, besides the thrill of the first National Cancer centre that is yet to be launched, there are no oncologists in the country.
Childhood cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which has an 80 percent cure rate in the United States, are a virtual death sentence for children in the country, according to a statement from the Rwanda Health Communication Centre.
The cancer centre of excellence aims to address both existing resource limitations and the growing global cancer burden. According to WHO, 16 million new cancer cases are expected worldwide by 2020, with 70 percent in developing countries like Rwanda.
The Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence will provide a full spectrum of cancer care including screening, diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery, patient follow-up, and palliative care. It will also serve as the first facility to implement standardised cancer training and protocols that align with the country’s new national guidelines.
A survey conducted in 2010 revealed that a total of 2,476 cancer cases were registered in Rwanda with 312 being children aged below 18 years.
By Maria Kaitesi, The New Times
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