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Join in the Movement to #ChokeCancer: A Letter to the Nigerian Government to #FixRadiotherapy & Make National Health a Priority

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Cancer

I am always a fighter for the weak and a voice for the voiceless. I want you all to join me. Cancer may have hit someone that you know, your dad, your mum, friend, sister or brother, who knows the next person.

Yesterday, I went to National Hospital Abuja for an LOC meeting and after the meeting, I went straight to oncology ward to see a senior friend, who is an oncologist. After the meeting the senior friend, on my way out, Kelechi Glory Obioma, a student nurse called me to greet a Cervical Cancer patient.

As a psychologist, I quickly engaged her; I tried everything possible to get this amazing woman to receive a dose of psychotherapy (psychological support, trying to make her smile). It didn’t work. She was in pain! She has been bleeding for months. She has been taking chemotherapy! She has been off and on the oncology ward.

She needs radiotherapy!!!

Cancer

She was booked for radiotherapy at National Hospital Abuja; she was on the machine when the radiotherapy machine broke down. She later travelled to Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital, Zaria for radiotherapy. On arrival, the machine broke down. They told her that they would call her when the machine is back.

A few weeks later, the machine was fixed. Off course, she planned to travel back to Zaria but unfortunately, she needed to wait for another extra 12 weeks before it gets to her turn. Why? Other cancer patients are already waiting for the same machine. Some of the cancer patients came from Port-Harcourt, Maiduguri, Talata Mafara in Zamfara State, Oba in Anambra state, Kwara and otherwise.

As at Saturday, August 18th, 2017, there was only one, two or no single radiotherapy machine that is owned by Nigerian Government that is working. The only machine that is working is privately owned in Lagos by the very old Eko Hospital. Well, thanks to Eko Hospital. I have seen so many cancer patients with their millions of naira to receive care, but the cancer treatment machines are down. Oh, God! What have cancer patients done wrong?

Nigerians who present Cancer of any form are clearly on their own. Why? Our government does not care! They are not interested in you. They can afford the care abroad. This is the rationale for over 70% of Nigerians living with cancer’s death in less than 5 years (in my estimation). Currently, I work with over 28 breast cancer patients and survivors. In the last one month, I have lost one. Calculate…. This.

It is a shame that we cannot fix a core oncology care. Any top politician who gets some headache, he or she gets on a British Airways to London or get on Lufthansa to the United States. They don’t go to India; India is for the boys and girls. There is an urgent need to fix medical infrastructures in Nigeria if we desire to save lives and our economy. Investing in healthcare is the greatest business. Only healthy people can work in other sectors. For instance, in 2013 alone, India granted medical visas to 40,000 patients and medical dependents in Nigeria. As a nation, Nigeria is losing millions of dollars and national reputation to medical tourism. Nigerians are now travelling to Ghana for radiotherapy treatment. Do you know that the radiotherapy machine in Ghana and many other African countries were set-up by Nigerian radiation oncologists? Well, Ghana is now the new India, Ghana is now the destination for medical tourism.

A few month ago, it took three to seven days to get a medical visa to India. Today, it takes three – four weeks and sometimes, a rejection. Where is the hope? We live in a country where millions of dollars are stolen and recovered. Can we use the recovered money to fix cancer treatment machine? Fix Nigeria’s Medical infrastructures! It is only healthy people that can build a better economy, it is only healthy people that can secure Nigeria and otherwise. WHO IARC recommended one radiotherapy machine for 1,000,000people, invariably; we need 200 machines for a population of over 180million. Currently, we have only 7 centres. The entire seven centres are not working properly. 1-2 centres work a week on and months off.

Every year Nigerian doctors are leaving Nigeria, because of the frustration in the healthcare sector. We cannot grow any sector if we don’t grow the healthcare sector. A farmer cannot farm if he is ill, an engineer cannot fix power if he is ill and there is no doctor or machine to treat him or her. Almost all the cancer survivors that I know received their treatment abroad.

My message is simple!

Federal and State Government of Nigeria should make cancer control a national health priority. For a country of over 160million to be having just one/two (or no) single radiotherapy machine is the worst form of health injustice and inhuman act. If truly health is a human right. Then, let’s give cancer patients the right to survive

Runcie C.W. Chidebe

Cancer Control Advocate,

Tweets @runciecwc

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 published for free as part of BellaNaija.com‘s commitment to youth, education, healthcare and community development as part of our corporate social responsibility programme.

9 Comments

  1. Sam

    August 24, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Godless you Mr Runcie.

  2. Chic

    August 24, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    The health sector is an embarrassment to the leadership of this country. What is even working in this country???? Education, aviation, health, power, housing … what???? The leaders care less about the welfare of the people. Only one machine for radiotherapy in this whole country. What a shame!!!!! A country where $30 million was supposedly spent on the president for 100 days of his medical tourism. What does it cost a government to make things work in this country rather than all these extravagant spending and looting by government officials. Even if you must steal, at least make things work for the common good of the people. Let’s have access to basic amenities. Make life liveable for the people you claim to represent.

  3. meah

    August 24, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Ah, Dear poster, GOD BLESS YOU!! my friend’s mum is undergoing chemo for cancer and was told the radiotheraphy machine in Luth has packed up and the earliest time to get a go at Eko hospital was around October. Feeling somewhat ‘superior’ since I know some medical personnel, I flippantly told her not to worry as I would hook her up with another teaching hospital. well, the joke was on me!! My doctor friend informed me the machine in UCH was down, while there was none in OAU teaching hospital. She went on to inform me that a doctor colleague of hers whose husband had similar issues had to be flown to India for his radiotherapy. And oh, the waiting list for the non-functional UCH one is almost 6 months long.

    I know a lot of things are wrong in this country but this health sector decay is particularly sad. cancer is a psychologically and physically draining ailment, it is worse when people who can even afford to pay for the expensive treatment cannot access the needed equipment. And we have people in Government. *sigh*. God help us because truly, one cannot afford to fall ill in this sick country.

  4. Rolake

    August 24, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    I sincerely hope this gets all the attention it requires, my mum has also been waiting since last year. Please helppppp

  5. Aderonke Onipede

    August 24, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    The whole Health System in Nigeria needs help, the whole Nigeria sef needs help! Kai

  6. nnenne

    August 24, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Nepotism, corruption, tribalism. Selfishness, are some of our basic problems. Treatment should start with putting the right people to
    do the jobs .

  7. Ngozi

    August 25, 2017 at 1:40 am

    I had breast cancer, finished chemo in April, I was able to go to India for my surgery. There is a lot of corruption at the Indian embassy in V. I. My passport had expired, I had to pay for express because time was of the essence. I came back with everything needed for chemo, there isn’t anywhere for chemo care or after care in Nigeria. If you know GOD, just serve HIM well and ask for help. Even the private hospital I used, nurses were clueless half the time . My husband is in the medical field, that’s why help from the oncologist was even easy. To be honest, cancer in Nigeria will be hard, when I even went to Luth to flush the chemo port, the radiography department is depressing. The federal government does not take the health sector seriously and it’s a pity. I am very grateful to GOD I didn’t need radiotherapy, the machine breaks down frequently from over use, the waiting list is long, can you imagine the trauma patients have to go through

  8. Ngozi

    August 25, 2017 at 1:49 am

    I got help from friends and family, the cost was crazy, infact if we hadn’t gotten help, maybe I won’t be telling my story, the cancer came unexpectedly and was very aggressive. Cancer sucks big time

  9. ogsbeauty box

    August 25, 2017 at 9:00 am

    This is one sector that needs all the attention of the government..its crazy to me that they don’t see this.Nigerian lives matter please do something.felt the passion and pain of the writer

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