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World Cancer Day 2024: WHO Regional Director for Africa Urges Action to Go the Extra Mile for a Cancer-free Africa

WHO Health Rights

In a compelling message on World Cancer Day, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, has emphasized the immediate need for leaders to prioritize and invest in cancer prevention and care in the African region. The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is “Together, we challenge those in power,” aiming to galvanize global efforts toward a just and cancer-free world.

Dr. Moeti highlighted the disheartening cancer situation in Africa, reporting that in 2020 alone, approximately 1.1 million new cancer cases occurred on the continent, resulting in around 700,000 deaths. Alarmingly, without immediate intervention, cancer mortality in the region is projected to reach one million deaths per year by 2030, surpassing the global average.

The prevalence of breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancers contributes to 50% of new cancer cases in adults in Africa. Disturbingly, cancer survival rates in the WHO African region currently stand at a mere 12%, significantly lower than the global average of over 80% in High-Income Countries.

Despite the grim statistics, Dr. Moeti commended the progress made in cancer prevention and care. Seventeen countries have introduced high-performance-based screening tests in line with WHO recommendations, and 28 Member States have implemented nationwide HPV vaccination programs targeting 60% of the priority population.

The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day signifies the universal right to health for all individuals, irrespective of socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, or gender. Dr. Moeti called on countries, communities, partners, and civil society in the region to unite and ensure universal access to cancer prevention and care.

Urging stakeholders to identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based population-wide interventions, and invest in cancer control, countries were recommended to use the updated WHO Best Buys, designed to help governments select lifesaving policies and interventions for non-communicable diseases. Dr. Moeti emphasized the responsibility of leaders to ensure the deployment of cost-effective technologies and therapies for cancer prevention and care.

The role of civil society, particularly organizations of cancer survivors or those with lived cancer experiences, was underscored as critical in the fight against cancer in Africa. Dr. Moeti advocated for a whole-of-society approach, emphasizing the essence of this year’s World Cancer Day theme: “Together, we challenge those in power” to go the extra mile for a cancer-free Africa.

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