IAE Agency Debriefs Health Ministry on mission to help Prevent and Control Cancer in Sierra Leone

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Dr. Kargbo noted that only the Arab countries and South Africa have established structure radiotherapy and cancer control system in the African continent, and reiterated the high commitment of the government of Sierra Leone to spare head the preparatory stage of the findings and recommendations made by the visiting team. “To have an efficient and established credible cancer control programme is laudable”, opined Dr. Kargbo. “Can prevent and control cancer if services had been put in place, and reduce mortality,” he added.

He expressed the need to have more Pathologists noting that there is only one currently serving a population of seven Million people.

Dr. Kargbo described the assessment mission as an eye-opener noting that the Non-Communicable Disease Strategic Plan is not cancer specific and reiterated the ministry of Health and Sanitation commitment to implement the recommendation positively to achieve the desired goal.

He observed that cases are sent to Ghana, Nigeria, India and other places after diagnosis, spending a lot of money, and underscored the importance of building the capacity of personnel through the recommended specialist training either locally or outside Sierra Leone to address the situation.

The Programme Officer and Team Leader, IAEA, Mr. Mathias Andre in making his findings and recommendations noted the inadequate resources and lack of personnel to upgrade the Pathology Department at Connaught hospital, the need to provide adequate budgetary allocation for the Non-Communicable Disease unit as well as the review of its strategy for 2017, and advocated for partners support to the Non-Communicable Disease programme.

He recommended the creation of a comprehensive cancer control Steering Committee and to initiate a cervical cancer, protection and early detection programme as well as a Technical Working Group to develop cancer control strategy in line with the Non-Communicable Diseases Plan.

The Team Leader advised that plans be put in place for retention of staff, develop a palatable care, and make available appropriate tracking system of cancer, train health care providers on psycho-social counseling and physical care, and to establish hospital protocols that would direct all NGOs noting that a number of them use their own protocols, leaving the country in disorder.

Other recommendation include nationwide awareness campaign in schools on the harmful effects of alcohol, A National Action Plan on the use of alcohol, the regulatory implementation of tobacco control and taxation, and the need to develop a comprehensive national policy on healthy diets consumption. The team leader also strongly recommends Task-Shifting on cervical cancer and breast cancer screening using nurses, and the recruitment of statisticians alongside present Registrars on death data operations to provide accurate information. The training of medical officers and para medics on cause of deaths among other issues, Mr. Andre said should also be considered.

He said the mission was made possible with support from WHO and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and expressed their commitment to provide the necessary assistance that would benefit both the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the government and people of Sierra Leone and the mission. Sierra Leone he said, also stand to benefit from similar support given to other countries, adding that 60 percent of cancer cases are preventable and 50 Percent treatable.