By Muhammad Amaan
The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is expected to enrol all Nigerians, including cancer patients for health insurance.
Permanent Secretary of the Ms Daju Kachollom, made the disclosure on Monday in Abuja, at a symposium to commemorate the 2024 World Cancer Day.
The symposium which was organised by the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), has “Close the care gaps: Operationalising the National Strategic Cancer Control Plan” as theme.
According to him, enrolling cancer patients for health insurance will go a long way in addressing the cost of cancer care in the country.
Kachollom said that the NHIA Act 2022 had made health insurance mandatory for all Nigerians.
She added that President Bola Tinubu had approved provision of new Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine facilities for six Federal Teaching Hospitals across the country in the 2024 Appropriation Act.
She further said that the ministry was partnering with Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to ensure prompt execution of the project.
Kachollom also said that cancer was a global health menace and that Nigeria was no exception.
“The prevalence of cancer is rising at an alarming rate, posing a significant threat to the health and well-being of our people.
“This is why the government of Nigeria remains deeply committed to the fight against cancer and has made significant strides in recent years towards its control.
“It is estimated that over 124,000 new cases of cancer were recorded in Nigeria in the year 2020 which resulted in 78,899 deaths.
“These statistics posed a gloomy picture and calls for concerted efforts to address the scourge.
“The data highlight the gaps in our response which is yet to address the challenges of late diagnosis and limited access to quality care.”
The permanent secretary added that the successful take-off of NICRAT in 2023 marks a pivotal moment in the national cancer control strategy.
She said that the institute served as the central implementing agency, spearheading government’s efforts in research, treatment and prevention.
“In line with the four-point agenda of the ministry, we have taken several steps to address cancer challenges in the country ranging from primary prevention through vaccination, early detection, prompt treatment and research.”
The Director-General, NICRAT, Professor Usman Aliyu, said the theme for the cancer day underscored the urgent need to bridge the disparities in cancer care and treatment.
He said that the institute had made improvements in cancer research, treatment, access to care, prevention, and control in Nigeria since the establishment of the institute.
“We have made significant progress in raising awareness about the causes, symptoms, and prevention of cancer.
“By empowering individuals with knowledge, we aim to reduce the incidence of late-stage cancer diagnoses and improve early detection rates across Nigeria.
“We are dedicated to strengthening and improving the administration and management of the Cancer Health Fund (CHF) in Nigeria.
“The focus of the institute on CHF implementation will be on enhancing coverage, ensuring effective resource mobilisation, and promoting transparency in the allocation of resources to support cancer treatment, and care services.”
Professor Aliyu added that in recognition of the unique challenges of childhood cancer, NICRAT had been at the forefront of advocating for dedicated funding and support for children with cancer.
He said that the goal was to ensure that children battling cancer received the specialised care and attention they needed to overcome the devastating disease.
“In our quest to improve childhood cancer care in Nigeria, we have established strategic partnership with St. Jude Global.
“This partnership is aimed at leveraging expertise, resources, and best practices to enhance the quality of care for young cancer patients in Nigeria.
“We have forged impactful partnerships with international agencies and leading research organisations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Syndicate Bio, Milken Institute, Mayo Clinic, Phillips Foundation, and others.”
These collaborations, he said, aimed at advancing cancer research, capacity building, training, and support for cancer treatment, prevention, and control in Nigeria.
“Tapping into global networks and expertise, we are expanding our capabilities and driving innovation in the fight against cancer to effectively bridge the cancer care gap in Nigeria.
“The symposium would serve as a platform for thought-provoking discussions, knowledge sharing, and collaborative planning with partners both locally and internationally.
“To advance the collective efforts in closing the care gaps and operationalising the National Strategic Cancer Control Plan,” he said.
The World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.