Kagame awarded for outstanding contribution to Cancer control

On 27 October 2021 at 08:58

President Paul Kagame has been awarded for Rwanda’s outstanding contribution to cancer control and treatment by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Kagame was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Control Award on Tuesday 26th October 2021 during the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit 2021 held virtually to recognize leaders who exhibited outstanding commitment to prevent and control cancer globally.

Hosted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the summit was held under the theme ‘driving innovation to advance cancer control equitably’.

Kagame was awarded for Rwanda’s remarkable milestone in the prevention and control of different types of cancer through ensuring universal access to health services and inoculation programs among others.

He said that it has been ten years since Rwanda launched campaign to prevent different types of Cancer, ensuring universal access to state-of-the art cancer treatment since 2012.

The President highlighted that the award given to him is a deep honour and thanked UICC and the judging panel, for recognizing the efforts that Rwanda has made to prevent and treat cancer.

Kagame also commended the immediate past president of UICC, the Princess of Jordania, Dina Mired for her exceptional leadership and commitment to the field of cancer control, and her attention to Africa.

He congratulated his fellow finalists, from both the policymaker and civil society categories, whose collective achievements ‘inspire us all’.

The Head of State stressed that cancer diagnosis is frightening, in any setting noting that there is a sense of hopelessness in places with no accessible treatment options. He however revealed that any country can make a positive impact within available capacities to control cancer, no matter its income level.

Kagame pointed out an example of Rwanda where the national insurance scheme started to cover annual check-ups for all citizens above the age of 40. This has allowed for earlier detection of cancers, and better treatment outcomes.

In February 2020, President Paul Kagame inaugurated Rwanda's high tech Cancer Centre. He was along with US Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman.

The President stated that the top two cancers in Rwanda are breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Among others, Kagame said that the structural focus on maternal and child health in Rwanda’s health system has helped the country to give these conditions the attention they deserve.

The Ministry of Health shows that 1237 out of 5000 Cancer patients detected last year were diagnosed with breast cancer while more than 750 were screened with cervical cancer.

In the same year, the two cancers took lives of over 1400 women with 636 being victims of breast cancer while over 800 patients died of cervical cancer as per figures from the Ministry of Health.

In the next ten years, Rwanda plans to be among top countries taking the lead in eradicating cervical cancer. The country has so far achieved a major stride where over 97% of teens are vaccinated against the virus that causes the cancer every year.

Unwavering commitment

President Paul Kagame has said that the region has some of the highest rates of liver cancer in the world, due to untreated hepatitis infections and shed light on Rwanda’s efforts.

“In 2018, we began an eradication program for hepatitis C, which screened more than 5 million at-risk people. Those found to be infected received treatment, free of charge. We also made hepatitis B vaccination routine,” he noted.

The President emphasized that early detection is only relevant when treatment is available and accessible. To this end, he said that Rwanda has started offering state-of-the art treatment that citizens no longer have to travel abroad.

“Since 2019, the Rwanda Cancer Center has been operational, offering both radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments. This means that Rwandans no longer have to travel abroad for many cancer treatments,” noted Kagame.

He stressed that local production of morphine has reduced the suffering of patients in palliative care.

The Head of State also said that partnerships are essential highlighting that the modest gains that Rwanda has made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have come by working together with others.

He commended the partnership between Rwanda and Partners in Health led by Dr. Paul Farmer which bore fruits and paved the way for establishment of Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence located in Burera district, Northern Province in 2012.

Kagame revealed that the Africa Training Center of the Institute for Research on Digestive Cancers (IRCAD) will be inaugurated in Rwanda next year.

The center is under construction in Masaka, Kigali City on partnership between Rwanda and Professor Jacques Marescaux, a world leader in minimally-invasive cancer surgery who founded IRCAD in 1994.

Kagame said that there is still a long way to go in the fight to control cancer in Rwanda and Africa, noting that the award gives motivation to aspire to do even more and better in the years ahead.

Kagame is among six leaders honoured with the award from two categories including policymakers and civil society categories.

Finalists in policy makers category include President Paul Kagame, President of the United States of America, Amerika Joe Biden and Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for Health and Aged Care.

Finalists in the category of Civil Society include Maira Caleffi, Breast surgeon and founder of FEMAMA, a Brazilian Federation of Philanthropic Institutions for Breast Health Support and Advocacy.

Othera are; Dr. Paul Farmer the founder of Partners In Health (PIH) and Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, the Chief Executive Officer of The Max Foundation, an organization dedicated to accelerating health equity by increasing global access to treatment, care, and support for people living with cancer.

Rwanda’s high tech Cancer Centre was inaugurated in 2020.