07 Feb In Africa, cancer is a burden that can no longer be ignored
It’s World Cancer Day today. Most people in the developed world will know someone who has suffered from or been affected by cancer. What fewer people know, however, is that people in the developing world are just as exposed: by 2020, there are likely to be 16 million new cases of cancer every year, 70% of which will be in developing countries. As the World Health Organisation‘s director general, Margaret Chan, put it, “non-communicable diseases are no longer diseases of affluence”.
Cancer already kills more people globally than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria put together, according to specialists, so the disease burden hasn’t escaped developing governments. The WHO forecast that last year it killed nearly eight million people worldwide.
But in the face of scarce resources, and so many competing priorities, many have been powerless to do much. “If you are the Kenyan minister of health and you have $10 per head to spend, you can imagine how hard it must be to prioritise,” says Prof David Kerr, a cancer therapeutics specialist and co-founder of the cancer care charity for Africa, AfrOx.