Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2021 World Cancer Day, experts in the nations health sector have called on the federal government to ensure timely disbursement and utilisation of the N1 billion approved for the prevention, treatment and control of cancer.
According to the stakeholders, the call has become necessary following the N1 billion currently domicile at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking during a media engagement titled ‘Sustainable Financing for Cancer Control and Prevention in Nigeria, the Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi noted that the N1bn was a total of two separate budgetary allocations approved by the National Assembly in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Giving a vivid breakdown, Dr. Magashi explained that the National Assembly had allocated and approved N729, 861,797 million in 2020 and an additional N294, 081,336 million in 2021 adding that the budget cycle for the N2020 funds would elapse on March 31, 2020.
He explained that the funds with specific focus on breast, cervical and prostrate cancer was yet to get a clear financing mechanism.
“The National Assembly with the ministry of finance in 2019 implemented a budget line dedicated for the financing if cancer in Nigeria.
“The journey started 3 years ago with the allocation of N70 million approved in 2019.
“In 2020 the budget was increased from N70million to N729 million. The national assembly is not tired to allocate money and approve so in 2021 thy added another approval of about N294 million to support cancer control and prevention.
“If you combine the 2020 and the 2021 allocations together, we have over N1 billion to hanging somewhere at the CBN to engage in cancer prevention and control.
We are calling on the government, ministry of finance and the National Assembly to put heads together with the CSOs and health professional bodies to ensure this money is utilised.
“The major challenge is not allocation of funds but how to utilise, spend and having the financing mechanism on engaging g with different government agencies to utilise these resources.
“As of today, there is no clear financing mechanism on how this N1 billion will be spent, the government has not agreed and articulated any funding mechanism.
A lot of meetings have been ongoing, so many committees have been set up but there is no clear pathway or agreement on how this over N1 billion can be spent for the sake of the cancer patient to ensure this money does not go back to the government account”, Magashi said.
Earlier, President/CEO Nigerian Cancer Society Dr Adamu Alhassan Umar said, it was worrisome that about 70% of cancer deaths are recorded in low- and middle-income countries to which category Nigeria belongs.
Quoting the 2020 report of GLOBOCAN, Dr Umar said, an estimated 124,815 new cases of cancer were recorded in 2020 while at least 78,899 deaths were recorded in the same year.
He called for collaborative efforts between governments and relevant stakeholders saying, early detection and treatment, we can save up to 3.7 million lives every year.
He said, “The more we know, the more progress we can make in reducing risk factors, increasing prevention and improving cancer diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care.
“There is therefore an urgent need for Government and all stakeholders in the cancer space to add more voice and more purposeful action in this regard.
“It is alarming to note that about 70% of cancer deaths are happening in low- and middle-income countries to which category Nigeria belongs hence the need for a collective action.
“The 5-year survival of cancer in Nigeria is abysmally low because of multiple factors including but not limited to; late presentation, lack of awareness, weak health infrastructure, poverty and high cost of cancer care with associated catastrophic impact on family finances.
“Ensuring that every cancer patient has access to standard care without undue catastrophic impact on the family finances is one of the cardinal goals of Nigerian Cancer Society”.
He further stressed that the collaboration with Africa Health Budget Network and the Nigerian Medical Association is to explore avenues to achieving this goal.
He said, a tracking mechanisms to ensure cancer related funds in the budget are released and judiciously spent has been set up with particular attention to the catastrophic cancer fund.
“We will also ensure that the international cancer centre is reactivated and put to use to benefit the growing population of cancer patients”.
For his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Healthcare Services Dr Yusuf Sununu who declared the event open pledged that his committe will work towards ensuring that the funds released for tackling cancer in Nigeria is utilised for the purpose it is meant for.
Also, Dr Minnie Oseji, National President, Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, it has targeted about 6000 women for cancer screening across the nation.
She revealed that the association realised the total sum of
N2,084,000 from well meaning Nigerians adding that the money will go a long way in achieving the target.
She listed some of the achievement recorded by the association to include, launch of WORTHI Project on cervical screening that has provided 19 States with fliers on cervical screening, screening for 278 women as well as treatment of a case of cervical cancer amongst others.