On the occasion of the 2024 World Cancer Day, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, delivered a sobering message, describing the cancer situation in Africa as disheartening. She disclosed that approximately 882,882 new cancer cases occurred in the WHO African Region, resulting in around 573,653 deaths. Notably, 50% of new cancer cases in adults are attributed to breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancers.
Dr. Moeti warned of an alarming projection, stating that without urgent measures, cancer mortality in the region is estimated to reach one million deaths per year by 2030. Furthermore, cancer death rates in Africa are expected to surpass the global average of 30%, given the current survival rates of only 12%, significantly lower than the 80% average in High-Income Countries.
The focus of this year’s World Cancer Day, themed “Together, we challenge those in power,” emphasizes the global demand for leaders to prioritize and invest in cancer prevention and care, working towards a just and cancer-free world. Dr. Moeti stressed the importance of universal access to cancer prevention and care, irrespective of socioeconomic status, geography, age, or gender.
Despite the grim statistics, Dr. Moeti commended progress in cancer prevention and care in Africa. Seventeen countries have implemented high-performance-based screening tests in line with WHO recommendations, and 28 Member States have introduced nationwide HPV vaccination, reaching approximately 60% of the priority population targeted for vaccination.
Dr. Moeti called on countries, communities, partners, and civil society to unite in fostering universal access to cancer prevention and care. She emphasized the need for stakeholders to identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based interventions, and invest in cancer control. The WHO Best Buys, a facilitative tool for selecting cost-effective policies and interventions, was highlighted as crucial in this effort.
In urging leaders to ensure low-cost technologies and therapies are available to affected individuals, Dr. Moeti stressed the importance of strengthening information systems for quality data. She emphasized the critical role of civil society, particularly organizations representing cancer survivors or those with lived cancer experiences, in the fight against cancer in Africa.