PROJECT Pink Blue— A Nigeria cancer-fighting non-governmental organisation said Nigeria does not prioritize the health of her citizens because the health insurance is not mandatory in the country.
Chidebe Runcie, the executive director of the organisation raised this observation during a press briefing at a multi-sporting: cycling, skating, jogging and walking event on Saturday to commemorate the 2019 World Cancer Day.
World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 targeted to raise awareness on cancer: its prevention, treatment, and reduce death caused by the disease.
Runcie lamented on how the health insurance scheme only covers small percent of the Nigeria population. “How can we live in a country where health insurance is not mandatory but vehicle insurance is mandatory,” he questioned. The cancer activist said the country’s priorities is to save cars and forsakes humans’ lives.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the health insurance in Nigeria covers less than four per cent of the total estimated population of 190 million people, while the 1999 constitution that set up the National Health Insurance Scheme did not make health insurance compulsory.
At the cancer awareness programme, Runcie cried over the rate at which people die of cancer in Nigeria. He called on the government to take intentional action against cancer. “As we speak today, cancer treatment in Nigeria is highly limited, so many of the facilities are all broken down. This means when someone has cancer, one is just on its own,” he said.
“We are losing our mentors, our mothers, and children to a disease that other parts of the world are curtailing.”
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, in a WHO report. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.
The WHO approximated that 70 per cent of deaths from cancer occurs in low and middle-income countries which include Nigeria.
The Nigeria National Cancer Control Plan Cancer (NCCP) 2018-2022 stated that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year. In Nigeria, an estimated 102,000 new cases of cancer are recorded annually.
Reports have shown that breast and cervical cancers are the two major types of cancer affecting women in Nigeria, while prostate cancer is the leading type of cancer among men.
The situation caused the Project PINK BLUE in collaboration with Transcorp Hilton hotel to organize free screenings for breast, cervical and prostate cancer on Saturday at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja.
Contributing at the press briefing, Owen Omogiafo, the Managing Director, Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, said early detection is the best way to address cancer.
Being a cervical cancer survivor, Omogiafo urged people to get tested and not think they are too young to have cancer. She narrated that she was able to avoid a full blown cancer because she detected it early.
“I, standing here, at the age of 29 was able to avoid full-blown cervical cancer because I went for my pap smear when it was discovered that I was a stage away from full-blown cancer. But today after going through a series of treatment I am free,” she said.
Omogiafo pleaded those who have a family history of cancer to go for a regular checkup.
Speaking in the same vein, Okaima Ohizua, the Executive Director of Transcorp Hilton plc who lost her father on January 31 to prostrate cancer and her sister 10 years ago to breast cancer urged people to go for a constant checkup as early detection could have saved her father and sister.
While she lamented on a high cost of treatment and lack of treatment facilities in the country, Ohizua called on the government and private sector to intensify effort to reduce the sufferings of people battling with cancer in Nigeria.
A cancer survivor, Gloria Orji who was diagnosed in 2010 of breast cancer also encourage people to have themselves screened as early detection and adequate treatment can save a life. She said the disease awareness needs to be spread to everyone, including those in rural communities.
The WHO, on its website states that the cancer burden can be reduced through early detection of cancer and management of patients who develop it. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.