Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation launched


NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has today launched the Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation, aimed at mobilising support for enhanced access to breast, cervical and prostate cancer treatment.

The Foundation, which was established by nominated Senator Beth Mugo and her spouse Amb. Nicholas Mugo, will enhance cancer screening among Kenyans in order to promote early detection and ultimately reduce the disease burden. It will be run by a Board of Trustees and Directors with Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf serving as the patron.

This comes at a time when 40,000 new cancer cases are recorded in Kenya every year in addition to 27,000 deaths, accounting for seven percent of the total annual mortality.

Speaking during the launch on Monday, Mrs. Kenyatta donated a fully equipped mobile clinic to aid the war against cancer saying that this would be critical in areas that lack health facilities. She maintained that cancer screening and early detection were crucial to treatment and it was therefore important to increase access to these services.

“We all have to do our individual and collective part and I am confident that the Foundation will successfully support cancer management, prevention and control. We can create a narrative of survival, victory, triumph and hope for cancer patients,” she said.

Health Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu welcomed the move saying that the government would partner with cancer stakeholders so as to halt and reverse the disease burden. He at the same time announced that the government would continue investing in the fight against cancer citing the new National Hospital Insurance Fund package as one of the investments.

The Ministry of Health is also in the process of establishing four regional cancer treatment centres in Kisii, Nakuru, Nyeri and Mombasa. This will go a long way in increasing access to treatment in addition to decongesting the Kenyatta National Hospital.

“I am similarly glad to announce that we now have a comprehensive national cancer control programme that is aimed at building strong cancer prevention and control networks, at both the public and private sectors through investment in cancer awareness, human resource development, cancer diagnosis, surveillance, treatment and research,” he explained.

On her part, Senator Mugo underscored the importance of setting up strong cancer detection and awareness systems. She said that the prevalence rate was increasing and there was need for the country to increase the resources and capacities for treating cancer. She further lauded the NHIF for increasing its medical package to cover cancer noting that it would ease the financial weight for many Kenyans.

The Senator, who will serve as the Chairperson and Founding Trustee of the Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation, is a breast cancer victor. About a week ago, the Foundation ran a free cancer screening clinic in Dagoretti. A total of 1,066 people turned up and were screened for breast, prostate and cervical cancers.

“Some of the women had advanced cervical cancer while others had advanced breast cancer. We furthermore referred some men for further treatment after finding out that they had advanced prostate cancer. This shows the need for increasing screening,” she stressed.

Also present was Dr. Joyce Onsongo, who spoke on behalf of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO). She said that cancer prevention and control could only be achieved through concerted efforts. Dr. Onsongo further commended Kenya for prioritising cancer prevention and control through various policy interventions and investments.

She however added that many lives could be saved in the Africa region if appropriate investment was made in raising public awareness on the early signs and symptoms of common cancers. Among men, the five most common sites of cancer diagnosed in 2012 were lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver while in women these were breast colorectal, lung, cervix and stomach.

“The rise in the number of cancer cases is due to ageing populations and the increasing adoption of risk behaviour. This includes consumption of unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. In the African region, infections contribute significantly to the burden of the most common cancers,” revealed Dr. Onsongo.

Others present were Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Cecily Kariuki, Head of Sub Sahara Roche Markus Gemuend, Mining Principal Secretary Ibrahim Mohamed, Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge, Environment Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli, some Senators, development partners, cancer survivors and representatives of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake.

The Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation has already entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Roche Sub Saharan Africa. The company will lend expertise in various areas including diagnosis and also help the Foundation to expand its international reach.