The government says the National Cancer Centre will become partially operation by October 1 2019 giving hope to Malawians seeking radiotherapy treatment within the country.
According to Ministry of Health officials who appeared before the Parliamentary cluster committee on Health, HIV and AIDS and Nutrition, the civic works are at 95 per cent but the completion of the bunker to house to install the radiotherapy and chemotherapy equipment remains outstanding due to the absence of a technician.
The ministry officials also told the committee that the availability of medicine and medical supplies has improved from an average of 66 percent in 2017/2018 to 73 per cent in 2018/2019.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango the works at the cancer centre constructed with a $13 million (about K10 billion) loan from Opec Fund for International Development (Ofid) is located at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) .
Malango said it has taken long to construct the bunkers because there were many studies undertaken before proceeding with the construction.
Currently, radiotherapy treatment for cancer is not locally available in Malawi. Cancer patients in need of the service access it abroad, mostly in India and South Africa.
Radiotherapy involves the use of high-energy particles or waves to destroy or damage cancer cells. Radiation is delivered using special equipment that sends high doses of radiation to the cancer cell or tumour.
Existing oncology wards at public hospitals such as Kamuzu Central Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre plus a few private hospitals only offer chemotherapy.
Malawi Government spends about K1 billion annually for referral treatment abroad. Out of the amount, 40 percent is spent on referrals for cancer treatment. Thus, the coming into operation of the cancer centre is expected to initiate savings.
The need for the national cancer centre came after research conducted by Ministry of Health established that less than five percent of cancer patients in Malawi had access to radiotherapy treatment.
In addition, the research found that there were 10 300 cancer cases presented to public hospitals in 2009, which is currently on the rise and patients have to travel to South Africa or India to receive treatment.
When he presented the 2019/20 national budget in parliament, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha said out of the K1.7 trillion , the health sector rank third in terms of size of budget allocation which he committed K101.1 billion which represents an increase of 12.6 percent from the previous financial plan.