By Hassan Zaggi
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS) and the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) have vowed to put machinery in place to track funds appropriated for the fight against cancer in the budget, ensure their release and judicious and transparent use.
The also vow to do all within their reach to ensure that the comatose International Cancer Centre is reactivated and put to use.
The President, Nigeria Cancer Society (NCS), Dr Adamu Alhassan Umar, disclosed this at a media engagement organised by AHBN, NMA and NCS to commemorate the World Cancer Day, in Abuja, Thursday.
He noted that one of the cardinal goal of Nigerian Cancer Society it to ensure that every cancer patient has access to standard care without undue catastrophic impact on the family finances.
“The collaboration with Africa Health Budget Network and the Nigerian Medical Association is to explore avenues to achieving this goal.
“Moving forward, we will set up tracking mechanisms to ensure cancer related funds in the budget are released and judiciously spent, particularly the catastrophic cancer fund.
“We will also ensure that the international cancer centre is reactivated and put to use to benefit the growing population of cancer patients.
“It is more than a decade since the idea was conceptualized and it is yet to see the light of the day.
“We in the Nigerian Cancer Society see a missed opportunity to provide affordable cancer services in the abandoned project.
“We are therefore prioritizing advocacy for reactivation of this laudable project.
“Through raising the public and political literacy and understanding around cancer, we reduce fear, increase understanding, dispel myths and misconceptions, and change behaviours and attitudes…it is doable and all of us should be advocates towards achieving that goal,” he said.
On her part, the Consultant Public Health, National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), in the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Dr. Deborah Bitrus Oghoghorie, called on Nigerians to remain calm as the ministry is working hard to ensure that funds meant for the fight against cancer are used judiciously.
“Have no fear about the funds. We will ensure that this fund is used judiciously and in only the indigent people with cancer who require this fund that will be accommodated in this particular endeavor,” she noted.
She revealed that the health ministry has received some funds budgeted for the fight against cancer and that modalities are being put in place to distribute it.
“I want specifically comment on the catastrophic health fund. We know that this fund came as a result of struggle by various groups and the budget line is now in place.
“I want to assure you that we have not been sleeping. We have been working tirelessly to ensure that this budget is distributed and particularly used for what it is meant for.
“To that effect, a steering committee was inaugurated by the Minister sometimes last year and we have met and produce an outline of what we think could be the appropriate way of disbursing this funds.
“I also want to tell you that this committee comprises of people from different places that have something to do with cancer including civil society groups, private sector and the government agencies. We did not leave anybody out.
“We came up with a proposal/formula how to disburse this fund. About 90 per cent will go to the institutions to be engaged and we have proposed one from each geopolitical zone in Nigeria. These are federal tertiary institutions to begin with.
“We have decided that 90 per cent of fund will be distributed to each institution when we have concluded the arrangement on the terms of engagement with them,” she said.
Earlier, the Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi, disclosed that there were some funds appropriated for the fight against cancer which were yet to be utilized.
He explained that in the year 2020 budget, 729,861,797 naira was earmarked for the fight against cancer which was yet to be utilized. On the other hand, in the 2021 budget 294,081,336 naira was appropriated for cancer related activities in the budget. All these put together amount to over one billion naira which will be used this year for fight against cancer.