IAEA to help Africa treat cancer

2010-04-28 22:13

Vienna - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is launching a pilot programme to train African cancer treatment specialists, as the continent is suffering from a severe shortage of expertise in this field, the agency said on Wednesday.

Africa has nearly a quarter of the world's cancer cases, but less than 3% of the work force are health care workers, the lowest figure of any world region, according to the IAEA.

The Vienna-based nuclear agency is planning to spread its expertise in diagnosing and treating cancer with the help of radiology to train doctors, nurses and radiotherapists, said Massoud Samiei, who heads the IAEA's cancer programme.

"There is a tremendous amount of work to be done," Samiei said.

The project is to run in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and is also geared towards setting up health care services, besides training more than 100 doctors over the next five years.

Samiei said that countries like Egypt and South Africa would be tapped to also share expertise in what he termed "south-to-south training".

The IAEA is planning to spend $250 000 on this effort, and the US government has earmarked $750 000. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche also said it was also part of the initiative, but a spokesperson declined to provide information about the extent of its involvement.

About 80% of cancer patients in Africa do not have access to cancer treatment, according to the IAEA, and patient numbers are rising as people adopt unhealthy lifestyles.

"The habits of developing countries are being adapted," Samiei said.