His Majesty King Letsie III says he is visited by a sense of guilt that Lesotho is not doing enough to address the scourge of cancer.
This he said when officiating the 12th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) held at 'Manthabiseng National Convention Centre. He said the presence of the attendees from across the continent is a source of joy, inspiration and a clear demonstration of African solidarity.
He said the subject matter for which they have gathered to discussed is of key importance not only to Lesotho but to the whole world, saying he has witnessed over the years with much pain and sadness the pain the needle that cancer in its various forms has caused to many Basotho, thus saying this could mean that Lesotho is not doing enough to address cancer.
"I do hope that this conference will strengthen our determination as a nation to expedite and hasten our plans, treatment facilities so that we can reduce this unbearable suffering of our people," he said, adding that hosting cancer conference in Lesotho shows his government's commitment to ensure good health for the people.
He said the conference takes place at the time of the African Parliament which he said is being confronted with a myriad of health challenges ranging from Ebola, HIV and AIDS, malaria and many other communicable and non-communicable diseases, commenting that these multiple health challenges pose a great problem to the people.
His Majesty said cure for cancer has however continued to elude the world as it reaches alarming rate with Africa being disproportionately affected, saying about 312 cases of cervical cancer are being diagnosed annually and that sadly this affects the most productive female group.
He expressed concern that every year about 900 cancer patients are being transferred to South Africa and this costs the country approximately M20 million, noting that it is for this reason that the government is mobilising towards building a Cancer Treatment Centre.
He however disclosed with appreciation that while Lesotho is struggling to conquer cancer, the Government of India has offered to help Lesotho by providing treatment to cancer patients, noting that recently, the first group of cancer patients was taken to India for treatment and therefore thanked the Indian Government for the initiative.
Meanwhile, speaking in his capacity as AU Nutrition Champion and FAO Special Ambassador for Nutrition, His Majesty urged all to eat well as nutrition plays a critical role in lives and that through good nutrition, many diseases including cancer can be avoided. He therefore appealed to Basotho to stop using agricultural land for residential purposes but to use it for production of food.
Also speaking, the Chairperson of Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation, Mr. Nnamdi Udoh said the organisation came into being 13 years ago when a Nigerian girl (Princess Nikky) was given six months period to live after being diagnosed with breast cancer but was later in a second opinion done in the United Kingdom diagnosed negative. He said Princess Nikky turned this experience into what has become a global movement with offices in Nigeria, across Africa and the world.
He added that SCCA was instituted because Africa suffers the most with cancer due to the link between cancer and HIV.
Mr Babatope Akinwande from the Programme of Action on Cancer Therapy (PACT) IEA, Austria said his organisation has been working with Lesotho for years in building capacity on working around cancer and providing support towards building a cancer centre hence his emphasis on the need to expand the cancer treatment centres across the world.
He said according to the Global Cam, the number of cancer cases is expected to rise to 69 percent in 2030 and to 1, 4 million of new cases in Africa the same year while there is an estimated shortfall of over 5, 000 radiotherapy machines in the low-middle income countries (LMIC) most which are in Afrcia and Asia.
Mr. Akinwande disclosed that when the last research was made, about 30 African countries including Lesotho were without radiotherapy machines and had insufficient capacity to meet cancer needs.
He however noted that since they are aligned to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 3, thus to provide good health, they need to achieve SDG 177, thus saying in partnership with several partners globally including Princess Nikky Cancer Foundation, they have set goals to achieve by 2030.
The 12th SCCA ends Wednesday.