The Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has highlighted government’s initiatives and bold steps in ensuring access to quality cancer and palliative care services, including enacting the law granting Uganda Cancer Institute the mandate to operate as an autonomous institution among others.

He added that more than 90 government hospitals and health facilities have integrated palliative care in their services enabling access even in remote areas.

The Premier made the remarks during the opening of the Joint International Conference of the Uganda Cancer Institute and the Palliative Care Association of Uganda on Cancer and Palliative care at Speke Resort Munyonyo. The two-day conference was organized under the theme “United Against Cancer. Prevention to End of Life Care”.

Rugunda noted that the conference is a testimony of the on-going efforts and commitments within East Africa and Africa at large towards addressing cancer, which is one of the most challenging public health problems of the 21st century.

He highlighted Government’s commitment to implementing the Cancer Resolution which was adopted by WHO on cancer treatment around the world with an aim of boosting cancer treatment efforts.

The cancer resolution provides guidance on health promotion and risk factor reduction as well as the need to address inequality in access to early detection and appropriate treatment, including pain relief and palliative care. It also emphasizes prevention and timely accesses to treatment and care.

While thanking the various partners who have tremendously contributed to the fight against cancer, he noted that the big problem of cancer can only be addressed through a journey of combined efforts.

“We can only win the cancer battle if we work together by pulling our financial, technical and infrastructure resources, and using them more effectively and efficiently. Both Cancer and Palliative care resolutions speak to an integrated and comprehensive approach to cancer and other Chronic illness,” Dr Rugunda said.

The Premier observed that there is need to formulate key collaboration and partnerships which are essential in addressing the issue of infectious and non- communicable diseases which have complicated cancer management.

He highlighted government’s commitment to continue working to achieve universal coverage as well as eliminate existing inequalities for cancer and palliative care so as to overcome challenges and barriers to accessing the same.

At the same occasion, Dr Rugunda also congratulated Uganda Cancer Institute upon marking 50 years of excellent service in providing cancer care, research and training.

The Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Sarah Opendi, re-echoed governments efforts in the fight against cancer including Uganda’s adoption of the W.H.O Cancer resolution, offering free vaccination to diseases such as hepatitis B which increase the chances of cancer occurrence, as well as making strategies to decentralize cancer institute units among others.

“As Government, deliberate efforts have been made to control cancer by creating awareness campaigns through different forums including Uganda Cancer Institute outreaches and sensitization among others, which have enabled the citizens to be informed and knowledgeable about cancer,” Opendi said.

She noted that Cancer cases are on the increase and will continue to rise as evidenced by statistics provided by the Cancer Registry at Uganda Cancer Institute indicating that there will be 300,000 cancers at any other time in the next 5 years.

Opendi highlighted that the most common cancer cases in Uganda are cervical cancer and Kaposi sarcoma affecting both men and women, with HIV and Hepatitis B+ infections being the leading contributors of the cancer burden by 50%.

She called upon the public to restrict tobacco use as well ensure early diagnosis to ease palliative care.

The minister also commended the health workers in Uganda for being committed to their work despite the challenges they face in the health sector.

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BY DOREEN NASASIRA