TZ, US amplify commitments to battle cancer

ZANZIBAR: ZANZIBAR President Dr Hussein Mwinyi yesterday witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of a cancer centre of excellence in the country, in an effort to intensify battle against cancer disease.

The signing between the Ministry of Health and the Global Health Catalyst (GHC) of the United States (USA), will lead to the construction of the centre to the tune of 5 million US dollars (about 12.7bn/-) in Dodoma Region.

Speaking during the event of Tanzania-USA Investors Forum on the future of cancer care in Africa held in Dar es Salaam, Dr Mwinyi said the government’s obligation is to ensure that everyone who encounters challenges gets services.

“Our country has been able to achieve success due to the strong leadership of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has always put emphasis on establishing various investment strategies with the aim of promoting the investment environment.

“She is doing great things and her goals are far reaching, includ- ing the use of renewable energy, the use of the natural environment as a strategy to deal with noncommunicable diseases,” said Dr Mwinyi.

The construction of the centre is under the Tanzania -USA Regional Advanced Cancer Centre of Excellence (TRACE), and has the main objective to providemodern cancer services, including treatment, research, training and therapy, which will contain improved information and the use of artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the event, Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu said the centre will develop the cancer infrastructure in the country in collaboration with the Ocean Road Cancer Institute. She said it is expected to be smart centre for cancer in the South of Sahara region.

“We believe that through this project, we will be receiving patients from other coun- tries. We have already seen 124 patients from different countries.

The presence of this centre in the country will also promote medical tourism,” explained Ms Ummy. Regarding the cancer situation, Minister Ummy said that the disease was still a heavy burden to the South of Sahara countries with the estimation of death increasing to 1 million from current 500,000 in six years to come thus.

She said establishment of a modern facility in Tanzania will be a huge boost in the battle against the disease. “In Tanzania, at least 4,000 cancer cases are reported yearly and around 26,000 deaths are recorded in every year…this shows how a killer this disease is,” she said.

She added that only 30 per cent of cancer victims are able to reach health facilities and most of them are found at villages and due to long distance, they fail to reach on time and also meet expensive treatment costs.

“Some 80 per cent of those who make it to the hospitals are arriving when their cancer level is beyond the treatment level, and cannot be cured,” she noted.

On his part, Zanzibar’s Deputy Minister for Health, Hassan Khamisi Hafidh said that the state of health services has continued to improve in Zanzibar, where recently 11 district hospital buildings have been constructed, while the construction of hospitals in each region was ongoing.

Global Health’s Director Professor Wil Ngwa said their goal is to reduce cancer by 50 per cent by 2050 and eventu- ally eradicate it completely and today’s MoU signing marks the positive journey towards the completion.

“President Joe Biden goes along with this and ensures that this centre is completed and has technology that is available worldwide and artificial intelligence technology will be involved.

The forum provided potential domestic and foreign investors, as well as intermediaries, with information and opportunities for investment and collaboration.

The event follows a launch of the Lancet Oncology Commission for sub-Saharan Africa in Tanzania in September 2022, Tanzania-USA collaboration meeting in Washington DC in December 2022, and GHC summit held at the University of Pennsylvania in May 2023 towards extending the USA Cancer Moonshot globally.

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