Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda on Monday performed a ground-breaking ceremony to start the construction of radiotherapy bunkers at Uganda Cancer Institute.
He said the country was taking great steps in the fight against cancer disease; the development of critical infrastructure, including completion of construction and equipping of the cancer ward and the start of the construction of radiotherapy bunkers.
“Cancer is increasingly being recogniaed as an important global health problem that kills more people worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. This has a significant health impact on Uganda and the well-being of our nation.”
Every year the disease burden is increasing. For every 100,000 persons in this country, 300 will be new cancer patients.
These new cases are added to already existing cases, creating very high prevalence of cancer.
He said the death rate among cancer patients is very high– about 80% of newly diagnosed cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.
“This high death rate is due to late-stage diagnosis of the disease and the lack of access to adequate cancer care.”
“The economic burden of cancer for Uganda is high. A majority of our cancer patients are relatively young compared to those in developed countries. We are losing people to cancer who are in the prime of their lives.”
Rugunda said there was a great need to combat this challenge by having in place infrastructure for care and ensuring that there are adequate human resources for cancer treatment, in order to effectively handle this challenge.
“A comprehensive service network is also in development with a referral system in line with the priorities set by government of Uganda. I wish to assure Ugandans that the NRM Government prioritizes the fight against cancer.”
He said this was evidenced by the establishment of a separate vote for the Uganda Cancer Institute in FY 2009/10 and the rapid rise in the budget provision for Uganda Cancer Institute from 2 billion shillings in 2009 to over 41 billion next FY 2016/2017.
He said government has also taken note of the gross shortage of radiotherapy facilities in the country.
“Thus the construction of these six bunkers is a vital step in alleviating this shortage of capacity to manage cancer disease using radiation. The commitment to provide funds amounting to 25 billion shillings for the construction of these bunkers is another clear testimony of Government’s commitment to the fight against cancer.”
He asked ROKO ocnstructors and all those involved in the project to expedite the process of constructing these bunkers without compromising on quality.
Government is committed to providing modern high technology radiotherapy equipment to be installed in these bunkers as soon as construction is completed, he said.
“Government will provide timely funding for the needed equipment using both domestic and externally sought financing. Negotiations to obtain extra funding and modern equipment with support from Austria is in advanced stages and will be concluded soon.”
He appreciated partners in the development of the Uganda Cancer Institute including the Austrian based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the US based Fred Hutchson Center, the Case Western Reserve University, the African Development Bank (ADB) and many others.