Thursday, June 19, 2008

AfrOx revisited

Back in May 2007 we reported the launch of AfrOx, the Africa-Oxford Cancer Consortium, at the African Cancer Reform Convention held in London and attended by representatives of nineteen African health ministries, various international cancer experts and representatives of international organisations involved in cancer prevention and treatment.

It was noted that more deaths are attritutable to cancer than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. Whereas 80% of childhood cancers are cured in the developed world, the figure stands at 5% in Africa. I could go on ...

We haven't heard much from AfrOx since. However, it now seems to be getting off the ground. A revamped website with the conference's final report "Building Sustainable Cancer Capacity in Africa: Prevention, Treatment and Palliation" sets out the organisation's vision and strategic guidelines.

It is ironic that after the cruel deportation from the UK of Ghanaian myeloma patient, Ama Sumani, and her subsequent death earlier this year that AfrOx has chosen to collaborate with Ghana in its first project to develop a National Cancer Plan.

Professor David Kerr of the University of Oxford and Alan Millburn (Labour MP and Secretary of State for Health from 1999 to 2003) have just returned from a visit to Ghana (accompanied by two BBC reporters!) where they met with representatives from government, medical institutions (it seems there are only two consultant oncologists in the entire country), the Cancer Society of Ghana and civil society.

As well as developing a national cancer plan, or rather as part of it, AfrOx aims to facilitate training for doctors, nurses etc.

David Kerr and Alan Millburn's visit to Ghana was funded by a one-off donation by a rich benefactor. AfrOx does need to raise its UK fund-raising profile.

Ghana was chosen as a starting-point due to its political stability, its links with the UK - although a country with a population of 23 million. To make an impact on cancer in Africa - where do we start? I understand the choice of Ghana - its easy - but why not Sudan, Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Congo ... ?

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