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Gambia celebrates World Cancer Day

Feb 5, 2016, 11:07 AM | Article By: Isatou Senghore-Njie

Gambia joined the rest of the world to celebrate Word Cancer Day yesterday with a ceremony held at July 22nd Square in Banjul, under the theme: “We can. I can. Gambia can fight against Cancer”.

In The Gambia, the day has been given more meaning by the leadership of the nation under the aegis of the First Lady, who is spearheading the campaign to create more cancer awareness in the country.

In her keynote address on the occasion, First Lady Zineb Yahya Jammeh said each year about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occur globally, and cancer caused about 8.2 million deaths in 2012.

She added that more than 60 per cent of the world’s total new annual cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America and these regions account for 70 per cent of the world’s cancer deaths.

“The most common types of cancer in The Gambia are liver, cervical, breast, prostate, stomach and lymphomas, especially in children,” she said, adding that cancer patients in the country seek medical assistance often too late when the disease has already reached an advanced stage, thereby making it difficult to cure.

“Only 20 per cent of our patients survive cervical cancer, a preventable disease, compared to almost 100 per cent survival rate in the developed world.”

She said this is mainly due to a lack of awareness about cancer and the existence of opportunities to equally tackle the disease effectively.

She explained that the main risk factors for cancer worldwide include tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

According to Zineb Yahya Jammeh, all Gambians “have more advantages due to increased access to healthcare, vaccines, education and other necessities thanks to President Jammeh”.

These opportunities have been enhanced by the government’s cancer control and prevention measures that are derived from the National Health Policy and Strategic Plan 2014-2020, she added.

Delivering the vote of thanks on the occasion, Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs, said the First Lady has been “very instrumental” and a driving force behind the cancer walk initiative.

She assured all of government’s support under President Jammeh, who “places high premium” on the development of the health sector, adding that cancer remains a heavy burden on developing countries with many challenges.

According to her, public private partnership is crucial for the fight against cancer, and the government has taken “significant steps” to reduce the prevalence of cancer in the country.

Dr Omar Sey, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, said the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 11 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the world and 7 million people die from this terrible disease every year.

This number of deaths being more than the combined total deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, he noted, it is estimated that there will be 15 million cases of cancer annually, and 70 per cent of which would occur in the developing countries.

WHO country representative Dr Charles Sagoe Moses said the event marked a significant milestone in realising the global push for increased political support for the prevention and control of non-communicable disease (NCDs), which include the different cancers.

He explained that global action plan for NCD prevention and control 2013-2020 clearly articulates the call for increased political commitment for cancer prevention and control.

He added that The Gambia’s commitment to pushing the global agenda for NCD prevention and control is widely acknowledged.