Cancer Association of Malawi CAM and a cancer specialist have asked government not to focus on covid-19 only.

In an interview with radio Islam Dr Boniface Sinyeka of cancer unit at Queen Elizabeth Central hospital said cancer activities are failing to take course because of the pandemic

Dr Sinyaka cited halting of some cancer activities at the cancer unit at Queens and failure of some surgical operations for cancer patients as some of the challenges being experienced.

He added that considering the huge patient load they have, are moving out some patients to avoid congestion in the wards in line with covid-19 preventive measures.

“This has compromised the medical assistance that some cancer patients are supposed to receive,” Dr Sinyaka said

Commenting on the cancer centre in Lilongwe, Dr Sinyaka said till now cancer patients are still being sent to other countries for further support.

Government commenced the construction works of cancer centre in Lilongwe in 2017 which was supposed to be completed in 2019 but 4 years down the line the centre is yet to be operationalised.

In a separate interview CAM chairperson Regina Njilima said “it is sad that patients are still failing to get the much needed support though government promised to complete the centre 2 years ago.”

However, Njilima said government is not coming out clear to explain the delay.

She then asked government to expedite the operationalisation of the cancer centre to cut costs and time taken to assist patients in need of advanced treatments.

Cervical and esophagus are among the leading cancers claiming many lives in Malawi.

When asked about the operationalisation of the centre, ministry of health spokesperson Joshua Malango did not respond although he was aware of the issue.

Meanwhile World Health Organisation WHO says new cases of cancer have more than doubled in African region from 338, 000 in 2002 to 846, 000 in 2020.

WHO regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti while addressing the media through a virtual conference attributed this to limited access to cancer screening and early detection, diagnosis and treatment in some communities.

“The challenges have meanwhile escalated during the covid-19 pandemic period,” Dr Moeti

Dr Moeti therefore asked countries to strengthen cancer services and capacity building among health workers at district level along with implementation of a comprehensive surveillance system and investment in digital innovations to improve cancer care.