President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed plans to launch the Cancer Health Management Fund to provide easy access and affordable treatment for the disease in the country.
The World Health Organisation, WHO has revealed that cancer is now the second leading cause of death globally responsible for about 10million deaths not only in Africa, but the entire world where one person is being killed every five seconds by the disease.
Speaking at the seminar and orientation for NYSC officers from Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT ahead of the national flag-off of the Arm our Youths, ArOY health campaign organize by the Onyebuchi Chris Ifediora, OCI Foundation, in Abuja, Buhari underscored the importance of health in human lives.
The President, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, commended the OCI Foundation for partnering with the NYSC, pointing out that with the presence of corps members in all parts of the country, the message is already delivered.
According to him, the campaign on cancer needs to resonate round the country due to the deadly nature of the disease, adding that the required knowledge about it is very important as well as early detection to help in combating the scourge.
“The Muhammadu Buhari administration is on record as being the first in this country to have considered perhaps what is called the Cancer Fund. It is going to be launched officially later, but already there is a yearly budgetary provision to fight cancer in the country.
“It is the first of its kind in Nigeria’s history. The Muhammadu Buhari administration has set aside a certain percentage of the budgets annually to fight cancer. There is still going to be a formal launch and presentation of the Cancer Fund,” Adesina stated.
He, therefore, commended the OCI Foundation for being a partner of the federal government in the fight against cancer, saying “together, we will fight against cancer and together, we will make advances.”
“When cancer comes, we believe it is only God who can intervene, yes, as God intervenes, we also need to do our part in terms of knowledge and information, and it is good that we are doing this today,” he submitted.
Also, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen stressed the need to create awareness on cancer which has killed many Nigerians due to low level of sensitization and awareness.
The minister, who was represented by Mrs. Ebele Obiefuna, however, listed some major ways to eliminate cancer in Nigeria to include making the screening of cancer compulsory and free for all citizens in every health institution to reduce the incidence of the disease, and proper training for the health personnel, especially the public health service providers.
She also stated that cancer screening centres should be equipped and made accessible as well as affordable for all patients, while cases of women with the virus should be incorporated into the national programme on immunization, NPI schedule for total elimination of the disease and prevention of deaths.
Tallen added that organisations like the OCI Foundation should be supported to boost cancer education in the country, adding that the ministry has always supported such initiatives by relevant bodies, especially the Ministry of Health by providing the basic needs for prevention, free screening and awareness campaigns on the danger of cancer and early detection.
Statistics, she informed, have shown that in 2018, an estimated 570, 000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide while about 311, 000 died of the disease.
“Although 99 percent of cervical cancer is found in women with abdomen virus, it is said to be one of the treatable forms of cancer as well as it is detected early and managed effectively. Cancer diagnosed late can also be controlled with absolute treatment and palliative steps,” she said.
The minister, while quoting the World Health Organisation, said with a comprehensive approach of preventing, screening and treatment, cancer can be eliminated as a public health problem by 2030,” assuring that her ministry would continue with its social mobilization and awareness to the women and girls through collaboration with relevant bodies to achieve the target.
Earlier, the founder and president of OCI Foundation, Prof. Chris Ifediora, explained that the ArOY health campaign is an innovative way of stemming the scourge of breast and cervical cancers among Nigerians.
“The campaign is a health promotion initiative of the OCI Foundation, which seeks to introduce anti-breast and anti-cervical cancer teachings into the regular activities of the NYSCs orientation camps across Nigeria. It also aims to include the preventive teachings into the academic curriculum of all senior secondary schools in all of Nigeria’s 36 states (and the FCT) before the end of 2025.
“To actualise the intervention in schools, we have reached out to the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, which is the body saddled with curriculum changes at the national level,” he stressed.
In his remarks, the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, assured of a successful campaign with the Foundation just like previous partnerships on national immunization, elections, population census, etc.
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