Six countries have pledged more than €9 million in support of a new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initiative – Rays of Hope – launched earlier this year to address a wide global gap in access to cancer care.
Announced at a high level Donor Roundtable organised by the IAEA on Monday, the money pledged by France, Japan, Monaco, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the United States will be used to purchase life-saving equipment, boost staff skills, and transfer knowledge necessary for averting cancer deaths, 70 per cent of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.
In the next two decades, it is expected that the number of annual deaths in the world caused by cancer will increase from 10 to 16 million.
If access to cancer diagnosis and treatment can be scaled up by 2030, including through initiatives such as Rays of Hope, many of these deaths could be avoided.
The lack of access to treatment is most acute in countries without facilities and personnel trained in radiotherapy.
Radiation therapy is recognised as an essential tool in the cure and palliation of cancer, and is fundamental for treating over half of all cancer patients.
“We need to give Rays of Hope the scale and resources required to make a real contribution to a real crisis as we see it in the low and middle income countries,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said at the Donor Roundtable held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
“The demand is growing, and our challenge is to identify the necessary funding and to provide the necessary technical and scientific medical support to make Rays of Hope an effective tool.”
The Director General thanked the six countries for their contributions to Rays of Hope.
He expressed his wish that additional support for this important global cancer care initiative will be provided by other IAEA Member States.
The IAEA’s goal is to tackle the global inequity in access to cancer care by providing tailor-made solutions in the form of packages to countries most in need – those that lack cancer services altogether or with insufficient coverage.
The initial focus has been on Africa, where more than 20 countries do not have a single radiotherapy machine to provide the treatment required by half of cancer patients.
The packages include financial estimates that help donors understand the needs for equipment, staff, training, infrastructure, and two years of operating costs to better support planning and sustainability.
The packages are developed based on needs assessment and economic analysis, taking into account factors such as the number of new cases per year, the number of required radiotherapy machines and the number of staff operating the equipment.
The West African country Benin is among those countries receiving specifically tailored assistance under Rays of Hope initiative.
Due to inadequate resources and late diagnosis, 70 per cent of all cancer patients in Benin did not survive in 2018.
Many patients had to seek the treatment abroad.
Under Rays of Hope, the country will now receive nuclear medicine equipment and other support to boost diagnosis and treatment of patients.
The IAEA assistance will be complementary to ongoing national efforts to mobilise resources for the construction of a new cancer hospital, planned for inauguration in 2023.
“We were not able to meet our demands to provide the cancer diagnosis and treatment needed. To prevent this, we have decided to build a health system, which will become a benchmark for others,” said Aristide Talon, Health Adviser of the President of Benin.
“The IAEA has been supporting us with essential technical expertise in the process of building our country’s first cancer care centre. I want to thank the Agency for their collective efforts to boost cancer care, control and diagnosis,” he added, speaking about Benin’s long-standing collaboration with the IAEA.
Together with Benin, donors at the Roundtable encouraged other countries participating in the meeting to join and confirm their support for Rays of Hope.
Combined with its ongoing activities to address cancer, the IAEA will also work with a diverse range of partners under Rays of Hope – the World Health Organisation (WHO), governments, non-state parties, international financial institutions and the private sector - to help countries in their fight against cancer.
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