The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: WHO Launches Cancer Strategy

Zimbabwe is scaling up its response efforts to cancers and other non-communicable diseases after committing to the new World Health Organisation's targets and indicators on these emerging epidemics, an official from the Union for International Cancer Control has said.

The strategy was launched recently at the World Health Assembly, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland.

UICC chief executive officer Dr Carry Adams said this new strategy would be implemented between 2013 and 2020.

He said the Global Action Plan would measure countries' progress towards improving treatment and control of non communicable diseases.

He said some of the targets of the new strategy were 30 percent reduction of tobacco consumption by 2020, 10 percent reduction of harmful use of alcohol and 80 percent availability of treatments for any non communicable disease.

Dr Adams said in rolling out this strategy, countries were requested to submit non communicable diseases national plans before the end of the year.

He said on the global arena, there was a time frame of three months to come up with a coordinated global effort to end NCDs.

"Combating NCDs can never be done in isolation. Efforts should be coordinated at global level. At global level TB is controlled under the Stop TB initiative and for malaria there is the Roll Back Malaria so should these NCDs," he said.

Dr Adams said all these efforts would help to strengthen response and financing for cancer programmes since it was not on the global agenda in past years.

Earlier, another cancer specialist, Dr Richard Sullivan had called for prioritisation of cancer the same way HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis had been.

Dr Sullivan, who is the director of King's Health Partners Institute of Cancer Policy and Global Health said the burden of cancer continued to grow worldwide. He said to combat cancers, treatment should be accessible, available and affordable.

"The burden of cancer is growing so are the costs. Its treatment costs are not going to be sustainable for many countries in a few years to come," said Dr Sullivan. Statistics from the Cancer Registry show that in Zimbabwe about 7 000 cases of cancer are diagnosed every year and more than 1 000 deaths are recorded.

Cancer treatment and care is available at only two institutions in Harare and Bulawayo. It is estimated the number of cancer deaths could be double recorded figures as most patients die in their homes due to inaccessibility of health services.

The cancer burden is not peculiar to Zimbabwe as about 12 million people die of cancer every year globally.

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