By Lilian Okoro
Lagos, Sept. 30, 2020 The Mass Medical Mission (MMM) has called on Nigerians, both at home and in Diaspora, to support the drive to establish the nation’s first Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) to stem cancer scourge.
Dr Abia Nzelu, the Mission’s Executive Secretary, said on Wednesday in Lagos that Nigeria at 60 needs heroes and heroines alike to liberate Nigerians from dependence on medical tourism, particularly for cancer treatment.
Nzelu described CCC as a world-class, stand-alone tertiary health institution, with all departments focussed on cancer care.
She said cancer was the single most important barrier to increasing life expectancy in every country of the world in the 21st century.
According to her, any Nigerian philanthropist who rises to this clarion call, will have his or her name written in gold, not only on the CCC buildings, but also in the hearts of generations yet unborn.
Nzelu is also the Executive Secretary, ↑↓GivingTide International, the fund managing arm of “The Big War against Cancer”, which is being operated by the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP), an initiative of MMM.
She described cancer as a pandemic, with 43.8 million people worldwide currently living with cancer, and 9.6 million annual deaths from cancer, adding that 70 per cent of cancer deaths occur in developing countries like Nigeria.
“Everyday in Nigeria, 32 women die of breast cancer, 28 women die of cervical cancer, 16 men die of prostate cancer and 14 people die of liver cancer.
“Most of these cancer deaths are often due to late detection and poor infrastructure.
“The CCC is the optimal infrastructure needed for cancer treatment. India has over 200 CCC- most of which are philanthropy-funded, Nigeria has none.
“Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Sudan are some African nations that have CCC. Egypt has several CCC, as well as the largest children cancer centre in the world. South Africa also has several CCC.
“Nigerians now spend over one billion dollars on foreign treatment annually, an amount sufficient to establish 20 CCC every year.
“Unfortunately, most Nigerians who go abroad for treatment end up dying because of late diagnosis and delay in intervention.
“Moreover, unforeseen situations (such as the COVID-19 lockdown) may make it impossible to go on medical tourism, even, if one could afford it.
“This dependence on foreign treatment is unsustainable and has to stop,” Nzelu said.
She said that October 2020 was a landmark month for Nigeria, as the nation turns 60.
Nzelu said, “the entire month of October is also the International Cancer Awareness Month (ICAM) with particular emphasis on breast cancer.”
According to her, it is instructive to note that Singapore gained independence five years after Nigeria, yet its life expectancy is three decades more than Nigeria.
She added that Singapore had attained the status of a developed nation, though, it is not endowed with natural resources like Nigeria.
Nzelu said that this remarkable achievement was attributed to Singapore’s commitment to health and education.
According to her, Nigeria is growing old, but tragically, its citizens are dying young, saying that most Nigerians do not live up to 60.
“At 60, Nigeria (“the giant of Africa”) has the world’s seventh lowest life expectancy.
“Dear Nigerians, year 2020 (60th) `Independence Day’, is a time for sober reflection. We must arise to redeem the time we have lost and lay a befitting legacy for the future generation.
“An ideal starting point would be the establishment of the first CCC.
“This is the immediate goal of the BIG WAR Against Cancer. With a fraction of the N41 billion Nigerians spend on champagne annually, a world-class CCC can be set up within a year,” she said.