President Ashraf Ghani at a symposium in Kabul on Sunday stressed the need for more efforts to combat cancer diseases after he found “shocking” figures about the health problem from government officials.
Many health officials who attended the ceremony complained about lack of machinery and equipment for the treatment of cancer diseases, but Ghani blamed the officials for being reluctant to pass on the message to him.
Figures by the Ministry of Public Health show that 20,000 people are suffering from cancer diseases every year, of which 15,000 lose their lives. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Afghans, the statistics show.
The figures show that almost $300 million is taken out of the country annually by Afghans for cancer patients’ treatment.
“When 80 percent of 20,000 people lose their lives, it is a national tragedy,” Ghani said. “You [officials of Ministry of Public Health] have not visited me even one day to share with me your needs in cancer treatment. It is not acceptable. You should come and ask me.”
Ghani said that providing free treatment for cancer in a country like Afghanistan is not an easy task.
“The Ministry of Finance has allocated more than Afs110 billion to the health sector through the national budget over the past five years,” Acting Finance Minister Humayun Qayumi said.
Figures by the Ministry of Public Health released on June 16 show that almost 40,000 people have been diagnosed with different types of cancer diseases, citing lack of awareness for an increase in the number of patients countrywide.
The figures show that more than 3,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, of which, 1,700 patients have died due to the disease.
Another reason for an increase in the number of cancer patients is lack of adequate access to healthcare services and the absence of a proper cancer treatment center, assessments of the Ministry of Public Health indicated.
The only cancer treatment center in the Jumhoriat Hospital in Kabul has 65 beds which according to officials cannot meet the increasing number of cancer patients.
The center was established four years ago.