By Thoboloko Nts’onyane
MASERU – Minister of Health Hon. Selibe Mochoboroane has vowed that his ministry will roll out cancer services in all districts.
This he said during the launch of the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC)’s Health Ministers
This call of action comes a few days after the celebration of World Cancer Day that was observed annually on February 4.
The Minister said “In Lesotho, we are in a state of emergency as far as cancer is concerned, particularly with reference to cervical, breast and prostate cancer. As an example, in 2022, 606 new cases of cancer were registered in our National Cancer Clinic.
“Of these 606 cases, 300 cases were cervical cancer.”
He continued: “This situation is a clarion call for us to employ people centered and integrated approaches to ensure that we get patients timely treated.”
Mochoboroane said the Ministry in collaboration with its partners want to reach out to every women and girl in Lesotho with cervical cancer services.
He said there will be a roll out of HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccination of girls from ages of 9 to 13. The Minister also promised that personal hygiene and appropriate use of sanitary pads will be promoted to minimize HPV infection.
The Minister further highlighted that the school health program focusing on health education and screening will be strengthened adding that all women should be screened for cervical cancer and categorized according to their risk factors.
According to the Minister, cervical cancer screening and treatment centers will be rolled out in each district hospital so that women with cervical cancer can access treatment easily.
“Currently one of the key priorities of the Government of Lesotho is to complete construction of the Cancer Treatment Hospital. All patients with advanced cancer diseases should have access to palliative care services. Equally important, I call upon experts and partners to contribute in any way so that eventually we can save lives of patients and achieve universal health coverage and leave no one behind,” he said.
Lesotho is said to be facing challenges with the burden of non- communicable diseases, of which cancer is one of them.
It has been reported that the government spends over M100 000 to even M200 000 per cancer patient that has to receive treatment outside its borders.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the “leading cause” of death worldwide and has accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths.
WHO further says that the most common cancers are breast, lung, colon and rectum and prostate cancers.
It reports that one-third of deaths from cancer are due to tobacco use, high body mass index, alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable intake, and lack of physical activity.
Meanwhile, the WHO Country Representative Dr Richard Banda recommitted their support to Lesotho promising to work together with the Ministry of Health (MoH).
“As WHO, we look forward to working alongside you, and in the years to come, as we drive towards [achieving] UHC (universal health coverage) for all.
“None of us can achieve this bold agenda alone, it is only through our ability to work together in a coherent manner which will determine how far we will go,” he said.
The prestigious health conference has attracted the participation of health ministers, health experts, deans of health colleges, policy makers, donors, and health technocrats in the field of health within and beyond the region. Addressing the delegates, the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Justice Nthomeng Majara qouted the former Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, now deceased, who said “access to quality health care remains a privilege for the rich” adding that the status quo prevails.