The Chief Guest, the elected and technical leadership of Mukono District Local Government (MDLG), Representatives of the Ministry of Health, Uganda Cancer Institute, the civil society leaders present – Rotary, the national organising committee of this event, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Cancer Day (WCD). WCD is commemorated every 4th day of February. This year, we are commemorating it under the theme, “Close the Care Gap”. This is a day for us to take stock of the challenges that humanity is facing because of cancer and also a day for celebrating our successes in supporting the people affected by the epidemic.
It is also a day when we make a firm commitment to sustain the achievements of the country, and do more, do better and reach further for the eventual victory over cancer.
Cancer cases and deaths are on the rise. We have seen the high death toll for Uganda in 2020 alone, where 34, 008 were registered with 22, 992 deaths reported. Cancer lives huge impacts on families in form of dislocation of many families, the increase in child mortality and the millions of children orphaned by cancer. We have also seen the pain suffered by people who are stigmatized and discriminated against because they have cancer and are sometimes excluded from accessing the support, care and treatment services they so desperately need. But, not all hope is lost.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As civil society, we appreciate efforts by Government of Uganda to address the scourge and also for finding ways to alleviate this suffering. The efforts to establish the regional cancer centres, providing palliative care services particularly through production of oral liquid morphine, and the drive towards creating an enabling environment for a policy and plan for cancer, among others are equally very much appreciated.
We are also aware that the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health and Uganda Cancer Institute is currently developing the National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) to support efforts and streamline interventions towards cancer control. This is crucial because cancer interventions are largely centralized and not properly coordinated, urban biased, inefficient, and not well aligned with the country’s cancer burden. This development is welcome but has to be fast tracked because the health system suffers a lot from weak infrastructure, insufficient human resources and financing, along with a lack of sufficient stakeholders’ participation.
The treatment services are still largely confined to Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, which greatly inconveniences patients in terms of costs. Public health structure still prefers institutionalized care as opposed to home care which is the most suitable model for palliative care. Additionally, government has not yet moved to attract cancer survivors to provide peer – to- peer support as much focus has been on clinical care. There are many more tasks we need to do. We should strive to have a country where by citizens do not have to wait to receive services on the day of WCD. This is the journey we are on. And this is possible with NCCP.
As we push to have the NCCP, we shall continue to foster effective coordination and cooperation. Uganda cancer Society and its members, Rotary, and other CSO partners are some of the organisations that have taken the challenges of fighting cancer seriously. Ever since, we have worked hard to design and expand community-based programmes in partnership with governments, and we will continue to do so.
These achievements and progress must not be halted by economic uncertainty created by inadequate and downward spiral budget allocation for cancer and palliative care services. The civil society in Uganda, therefore, strongly calls upon the government and development partners to do all possible to fund cancer programmes to ensure the sustainability of the current gains, and intensify future efforts to stop cancer.
The civil society in Uganda fully supports the Ministry of Health vision of ensuring a healthy and productive population – this can be achieved if efforts around cancer control are given the much needed audience.
Uganda Cancer Society