iPRI Stands Against Cancer in Africa
February 3, 2017
The International Prevention Research Institute stands with all those concerned with African Public Health. In the past decade, Global Public Health seems to have lowered the intensity of prior decades and yet, as was the case with the rise of HIV, Africa continues to have new health challenges. One particular challenge is URGENT. Indeed, the rise of Cancer in Africa is not attracting the level of commitment that this grave threat poses. And yet, the threat that cancer poses to Africa is REAL.
This page is devoted to iPRI’s current efforts to better understand and challenge cancer in Africa. It presents our two most recent projects:
The State of Oncology in Africa
The Report’s Executive Summary
Written about cancer in Africa by health professionals working in Africa or international colleagues working closely with Africa, identifies ‘The State of Oncology in Africa, 2015’ as a unique report. Overall, it paints a depressing and deplorable picture of the current situation regarding cancer in Africa. Many patients do not seek traditional medical advice. Those who do, do so when the cancer is at an advanced stage when cure is no longer possible. There is a lack of oncologists from all disciplines, nurses and the necessary health professionals and technicians to support their work. There is a lack of treatment centres. There is a lack of treatments. Most countries do not have any Radiotherapy equipment.
Most countries do not have access to opioid drugs for palliative care and pain control. The situation is bound to get worse as the population grows and ages and cancer risk factors imported from high-resource countries begin to have their effect. The evidence is clear. Over the next decades, cancer will cause Africans to suffer and die in greater numbers; much greater numbers.
Throughout the individual chapters there are monotonous statements about patients not being able to afford the cost of the most basic chemotherapy protocols. The introduction of Universal Health Coverage would be a great advantage to cancer patients in Africa.
Yet there is hope. There are oncologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals and technicians doing a magnificent job in frequently desperate circumstances, without adequate resources or infrastructure, who deserve our full admiration. There is hope from the success of high-quality, sustainable projects such as the AMPATH model in Eldoret (Kenya) and in the activities of Hospice Africa Uganda (Kampala, Uganda). Unfortunately, it is not enough. Significantly, both these extraordinary examples rely on international charitable donations rather than local or international government funding.
There is a wide variety of statistics available regarding cancer in Africa, many just estimates of the situation. However, statistics are patients with the tears wiped away. It is bad to have cancer and worse to have cancer if you are poor. The gap between rich and poor, highly educated and less educated and the North-South divide is substantial and continuing to grow. Radical solutions to improve the situation in the poor countries are urgently needed: the status quo is not an appropriate response to the current situation. Recognising that no single Government or source of philanthropy has the means to solve this problem, new models are needed to cope with and improve this situation.
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that there is a need for a major Private-Public partnership, involving a number of sources from different areas, to make the necessary progress with the briefest delay. The partnership needs the commitment of the wide span of industries involved in the technology for diagnosis and treatment. It needs the commitment of Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations to be effective. Effective will be measured against the Right of every patient with cancer to have the most appropriate treatment and care for their disease.
Working to improve health must cease to be viewed as a competition. Public and Private organisations have an underlying suspicion of each other that must be overcome in the interests of improving cancer care and outcome worldwide. The situation as portrayed in this Report is dramatic and urgent and it behoves all parties to put this frequently deep-rooted suspicion behind them and develop an effective collaboration to improve this key aspect of Public Health throughout the world.
It is essential to move from a passive position to an active one. We can turn our heads and walk away from this situation and betray all those wonderful clinicians, nurses and other personnel grasping with the overwhelming problem of cancer on the Continent. Or, we can do something.
As with cancers everywhere, African cancers deserve to be prevented, to be treated, to be cured and to be palliated. If we don’t do it now, starting immediately, it will be too late and Africa’s cancer crisis will continue to grow out of control.
We make this call to action to African governments, foreign governments and international organizations to address the challenge posed by Cancer in Africa with specific, coordinated actions as laid out on the facing page.
The situation with cancer in Africa is critical. Global Society cannot, once again, react too slowly to an African health crisis.
Peter Boyle, Twalib Ngoma, Richard Sullivan, Ntokozo Ndlovu, Philippe Autier, Cristina Stefan, Kenneth Fleming and Otis W. Brawley
Cancer is… Attacking Africa
A Feature Documentary Film
In late 2014 and throughout 2015, Peter Boyle, Cemil Alyanak and several experts and co-authors, were working on the State of Oncology in Africa Report. The data were irrefutable, Cancer in Africa was a clear and present danger that was being ignored by both international public health organizations, governments and aid agencies, and most African governments. But if the data were so clear, why wasn’t more being done?
The report, they felt, would speak to the urgency of the problem. It would make the case for developing appropriate prevention, treatment, care and palliation policies. How could one argue with these numbers: over half of African countries have no radiotherapy units and/or outlaw the use of opiodes to treat pain? But would the Report succeed in elevating the crisis to an emotionally committed level? Would they manage to incite policymakers to act swiftly? Plainly, would policymakers be sufficiently swayed by the data alone, to invest now in a disease that will peak in ten or twenty years?
Thus came about the idea of a film that would, first and foremost, bring the suffering to the forefront. It would fearlessly shine a light on all that was missing from the fight against cancer in Africa. It would use interviews, images and data. It would not give anyone a pass, ensuring that the message was clear: Cancer is… Attacking Africa!
But the film would not stop there. It would not allow itself to be cornered into darkness. It would also shine a bright light on the amazing efforts of medical professionals working tirelessly in clinics, hospitals and even in people’s homes throughout Africa. It would show the efforts of an organization in Uganda dedicated to home-based care for the terminally ill. It would give us the tour of a Hospital in Kenya that dares to aspire to the standards of a developed country. It would take us to Senegal where despite ‘inhumane’ conditions in some of the care facilities, the staff press on providing chemotherapy in tiny over-crowded rooms and radiotherapy with a single Cobalt unit which is more often broken than working.
The result has been the film: ‘Cancer is… Attacking Africa.’ It was entirely produced by iPRI faculty, senior research fellows, staff and consultants. The film was funded both by iPRI and by an unrestricted grant from Pfizer, Inc. who entirely respected their commitment to have zero influence on the film whatsoever. The film has been edited into two versions, a 22-minute synopsis and the full length 59-minute version. Starting in 2017 they will be shown widely on African television stations, on the internet and in congresses and on campuses worldwide.
iPRI plans to produce future films to further leverage the data that overwhelming demonstrates that Global Public Health, though substantially funded, often lacks the aggressive and selfless policy-making that is our Human Right.
The film was produced by Professor Peter Boyle and Dr. Cemil Alyanak, entirely filmed and edited by Alyanak and guided by the on-the-ground expertise of African cancer authority Professor Twalib Ngoma.
Finally, without hesitation, the hero of the film is a young woman, Jovia, born and raised in Kampala, who alone, without parents, without a husband who had left her years back, burdened by the care of a daughter and a younger brother, had to face both the scourge of HIV/AIDS and cancer of the cervix. She was interviewed three weeks before she passed, weak and destitute, yet still full of the life and hope of a 29-year old. RIP Jovia.
Presented here is the 22-minute version of Cancer is… Attacking Africa. For the full 59-minute version, CLICK HERE.