Grace Audue (ABUJA) –
First Lady of Nigeria, Dr. Aisha Buhari has commended the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for launching the ‘Rays of Hope’ initiative to increase access to radiotherapy for cancer patients in low to middle-income countries that have the highest cancer rates and lowest rates in screening, diagnosis, therapy, and treatment.
She was speaking while receiving a team from the IAEA on a courtesy visit, yesterday.
Mrs. Buhari said she was particularly happy with the visit because of her involvement in cancer advocacy and her experiences which exposed her to identify gaps in the sector, and she called on the IAEA to do more to reduce the casualty figures for cancer in Africa.
She said advocacy for cancer therapy is important because most patients who can afford proper cancer management usually travels abroad to get it, while the majority of patients, who are unable, remain with little or no management care.
While further expressing optimism that ‘Rays of Hope’ would change the narrative on cancer in Nigeria and Africa, she said,
“My foundation in collaboration with some development partners has done a lot in the area of improvement of healthcare delivery in Nigeria, and would like to leave a lasting legacy in that regard.”
Mrs. Buhari therefore, promised to support IAEA in cancer advocacy.
Earlier, the Chairman, Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Yusuf A. Ahmed, said the courtesy call was aimed at bringing to the attention of the First Lady, the work of the IAEA in the area of the peaceful use of atomic energy, and the provision of support to countries in implementing their nuclear science and technology agenda; areas he drew as examples include cancer treatment, water resources, agriculture, and environment.
He said the IAEA is aware of the efforts of the First Lady in the area of health advocacy and support and desires a partnership with Future Assured Foundation as a veritable platform for interface with communities in Nigeria.
Also, the Director of Technical Cooperation, IAEA, Professor Shaukat Abdurrazak spoke more on the Rays of Hope, as an initiative of IAEA, which focuses on prioritizing high-impact, cost-effective and sustainable interventions in line with national needs and commitment.
He said with more than 19 million new cases and 10 million deaths in 2020, the cancer disease places its heaviest burden on low- and middle-income countries, with over 70% of cancer deaths.
Prof Abdurrazak also reported that for over 60 years, the assistance provided by the IAEA has enabled many countries to establish and strengthen safe, secure, and effective radiation medicine (radiotherapy, radiology, and nuclear medicine) capabilities.
According to him, IAEA was focusing on forging new partnerships and tapping into diverse funding sources, including governments, international financing institutions, and the private sector to ensure maximum reach, impact, and sustainability.
Furthermore, Prof. Abdulrazak called on the First Lady to raise her voice in the fight against cancer both within Nigeria and in her capacity as President of the African First Ladies Peace Mission, especially in the area of investment and government co-sharing.
Finally, the delegation called on Mrs. Buhari to intervene in addressing the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with the importation of cancer equipment.