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  • Honorable Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Minister of Health of the United Republic of Tanzania, addressing the gathering at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the cancer care centre at Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam.
    AKDN / eMotion
Address by the Honourable Minister of Health Ummy Ally Mwalimu

Thank you very much Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sichwale.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan, The Head of the Social Welfare Committee, of Aga Khan Development Network

Justice Othman Chande, Former Chief Justice of Tanzania and Member of the Aga Khan University

His Excellency, Nabil Hajlaoui, French Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr Sichwale, Chief Medical Officer of Tanzania

Dr Grace Maghembe, Deputy Permanent Secretary Responsible for Health, President Office, Regional Administration and Local Government

Mr Sulaiman Shahabuddin, President and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Aga Khan University

Dr Gijs Walraven, Director of Health, Aga Khan Development Network

Dr Zeenat Sulaiman, Regional Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Health Services, East Africa

Ms Stephanie, Representative of the French Development Agency (AFD) Tanzania

Representative of the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Dr Rashid, Dar es Salaam Regional Medical Officer

Heads of Public Institutions, Development Partners, Directors from the Ministry of Health, President Office, Executive Directors from Various Government and Private Health Institutions in Tanzania

Representatives of Religious Institutions

Invited Guests

Ladies and gentlemen,

Nawasalimu kwa Jina la Jamuhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania

First, let me start by thanking God, for giving us good health and enabling us to be here to participate in this important event of laying the foundation stone for the construction of the cancer care centre at the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam. In particular, I would like to express on behalf of Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan,President of the United Republic of Tanzania, our congratulations and appreciation for the construction of the modern cancer care centre here in Dar es Salaam. Hongereni Sana Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam. But I will also want to thank you very much for the briefing and insightful information about the Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project (TCCP), we have been told it’s a PPP project which is going to be implemented by the Aga Khan Hospital in collaboration with the ministry of Health, PO-RALG, Muhimbili National Hospital, Ocean Road Hospital and Bugando Medical Hospital. I think this is a very good model of a PPP project in the health sector and I would like to encourage other partners to take this as an example of a good collaboration between Government and the private sector in improving access to quality healthcare services for Tanzanians. Hongereni sana wote ambao mmebuni mradi huu.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We all know that non-communicable diseases, including cancer, affect us all. Cancer is a disease that affects people of all ages and genders, children, adults, men to women. We all know people whose lives have been cut short by cancer here in Tanzania and outside Tanzania. Furthermore, it also causes significant losses to the nation because the disease reduces the workforce and slows down the development of the individual and the nation. It also results in family dependency and increasing the burden on the health system as it is a chronic disease and consumes many resources.

Statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2020, for example, show an estimated 19.3 million new cancer patients worldwide each year. Of these, more than 10 million, about 50 percent of the new cases, about 50 percent of the patients die from cancer each year. In addition, out of five people, one person is diagnosed with cancer and out of eight people, one dies from the disease. Here in Tanzania according to International Agency for Research on Cancer, Tanzania has an incidence of 76 cancer patients per a hundred thousand population per annum. Equivalent to 42,000 new cancer cases each year. And approximately 29,000 patients, equivalent to 68 percent, die each year because of cancer. This is mainly attributed by the late diagnosis and inadequate number of facilities to provide or to cater for cancer treatment in palliative care. The national population based cancer registry has registered for example 12,000 new cases which is almost 28 percent of the expected number of new cases per annum for the year 2020. This means further effort is needed to capture all cases. According to the National Registry, Eastern Zone has the highest number of registered cases about 7,381 followed by Northern Zone 2,783 cases, Lake Zone 1098 cases. In other zones in Tanzania combined making the remaining 13% of the registered cases. These statistics are alarmingly high and as a country we need to make immediate measures to control the situation. Strengthening health education, early screening and treatment is key for the control of cancer in Tanzania.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am aware that on 11 March 2022 the Ministry of Health partnered with the Aga Khan Hospital here in Dar es Salaam in the official launch of the Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project (TCCP). One of the project goals as we have been informed is the improvement of cancer care infrastructure and treatment facilities in Tanzania. Recognising the importance of this cancer project, the Government of Tanzania will give all the necessary support to make sure that its citizens can easily access these much-needed services. Availability of these services here at the Aga Khan Hospital will reduce patient congestion at our Ocean Road Cancer Institute. We have been informed here this centre is expected to treat about 120 patients per day. Currently at our Ocean Road Cancer Institute they see about 800- 900 patients per day, so you can see the importance of this centre. It also going to reduce congestion at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute. Good news, Princess Zahra, I am very pleased to hear that this centre will also provide services to about 35 percent of cancer patients who will not be able to afford medical treatment [they] will be offered welfare support. We would like to encourage this arrangement to be implemented and we would like to thank you very much for taking it into consideration of the Tanzanians especially from low-income households to have access to high-quality cancer services at the Aga Khan Hospital. This is a good thing and I congratulate you very much. Asanteni sana.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I understand that Tanzania has a shortage of radiation equipment especially LINAC machines. So far in Tanzania we have a population of about 60 million people and we have seven radiation treatment machines, four are located at Ocean Road Cancer Institute, one at BESTA, one at Good Samaritan Hospital in Ifakara and one is in Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital, in Mwanza. I am told that Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Centre will add two radiation treatment machines thus increasing the number of radiation treatment machines in the country to nine machines, increasing access to cancer radiation treatment in Tanzania. It is my hope that these machines will be matched with all machines in other hospitals in Tanzania so that, should one of them break down, as we usually observed at our Ocean Road Cancer Institute, then patients can easily be transferred and treated in other hospitals.

In addition, these services will reduce the number of patients travelling abroad for cancer services and it will make Tanzania the hub of premier care - for premier cancer care in medical tourism. All of these show that our Government is determined to fight cancer, but also enabling private hospitals to provide such services. And since the Aga Khan Hospital is going to add two radiation machines at our Ocean Road Cancer Institute we are installing a PET-SCAN machine, so we are looking forward to seeing complementarity between the Aga Khan Hospital and our Ocean Road Cancer Institute and other cancer centres in Tanzania.

However, my humble request to the Aga Khan Hospital here is also to invest in improving or enhancing access to screening services for early detection. As a Minister of Health, it is really, very, very painful to see that 80 percent of patients who attend or visit our Ocean Road Cancer Institute, they go there while cancer is at stage 3 or stage 4 then they make treatment very difficult. And so, we would also like to request the Aga Khan Hospital and other partners also to collaborate with the Government of Tanzania to enhance access to screening services and detection not only for cancer but also for other non-communicable diseases, for example, diabetes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would also like to recognise that the Aga Khan, maybe before talking about this, the Government will also continue to ensure or to reach out to various girls in Tanzania to have HPV vaccine. We launched it in 2017-2018 but because of COVID-19 the number has gone down because of supply of HPV vaccine in Tanzania. So, we do also believe that improving access to HPV vaccine to young girls in Tanzania will also help us to reduce the burden of cancer disease in Tanzania.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to recognise that Aga Khan Health Services in Tanzania has been working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health for many years. It has had enormous contribution on health system strengthening, particularly around quality health service delivery, in effective and efficient programming in maternal child and newborn health quality and accreditation, capacity building and now on cancer care being the good example.

The Ministry of Health highly supports this project which provides [a] unique opportunity for improving access to cancer care especially for high-end treatment and training of health professionals and we believe that partners and communities will respond positively to this project. The Government appreciates Aga Khan Health Services’ integrated approach of service delivery and collaborations in building capacities of public and private health service providers on cancer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Before concluding this speech, on behalf of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan,  President of the United Republic of Tanzania, I would like to thank various stakeholders and donors who have made this project possible including the French Development Agency (AFD), thank you very much Stephanie for the contribution and the Aga Khan Foundation. But also, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, we thank you very much for your active participation to make this project a reality today. I know cancer, you are so much concerned to make sure Tanzanians, especially the women, men have access to cancer, quality cancer treatment, access to quality cancer services in Tanzania.

So, with due respect, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations and appreciation to His Highness the Aga Khan for giving priority to cancer and for ongoing support to Tanzania in improving health care. Kindly send our warm appreciation to His Highness the Aga Khan.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the role and importance of the media in our joint efforts to educate the public about cancer and how the sixth-term Government is improving medical services in the country. I urge you to inform Tanzanians about the importance of early screening of cancer and other non-communicable diseases as soon as possible in order to reduce the burden of disease.

With that said, I would like to officially announce that I am now ready to lay the foundation stone for constructing the cancer care centre here at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Thank you for your attention, asanteni sana kwa kunisikiliza.