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Meru drafts cancer Bill to curb scourge.

The county government has drafted the Meru Cancer Bill 2019 to curb the disease which has sent panic across Kenya.

A report by the National Cancer Institute of Kenya shows Meru is among top counties with high prevalence of the disease.

Governor Kiraitu Murungi said the majority of cancer patients are poor and can't afford costly medical expenses sometimes going up to Sh3 or Sh4 million.

'Cancer has become an epidemic in Meru. Many can not access medical care. In order to focus and allocate more resources in the fight against cancer, we have drafted the Meru Cancer Institute Bill 2019," he said.

"The Cancer Institute will mobilise resources and personnel for preventing and combating the disease through screening and cancer management strategies.'

Kiraitu spoke at the Meru county assembly.

At least 699 patients were booked for chemotherapy last year in Meru.

Prof Karambu Ringera, who has a farm at Kithoka, Imenti North, where she grows foreign and local crops scientifically proven to contain cancer-fighting properties said people must be enlightened to stop use of chemicals and change risky lifestyles.

'The rate of various types of cancer is worrying in Meru as per the National Cancer Institute figures. There is a need for community awareness on affordable preventive measures, including producing cancer-fighting foods,' Ringera said.

She said foods like tomatoes, papaya, avocados and lemons have medicinal properties many people are unaware of.

'We are also teaching the community to make their own organic fertilisers with readily available materials instead of chemicals which increase risk,' she said.

Meru Hospice palliative care officer Gladys Mucee said they had launched a partnership with the county, universities and hospitals in the region to conduct research on the cause of the disease in Meru.

'We want to develop data which will show the number of patients in Meru. We will identify the various types of cancer affecting people. This is the only way to fight the disease," Mucee said.

She said over 400 cancer patients are undergoing palliative care at the Meru Hospice.

Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital has only one oncologist attending to about 2, 000 cancer patients.

Kenya Revenue Authority chairman Francis Muthaura asked Kenyans to push the national government for the provision of cheap cancer drugs.

Muthaura donated cancer drugs to the Meru Hospice in commemoration of his mother who died of the disease.

'Lifesaving cancer drugs are costly. People should write a memorandum to the Finance Ministry to review tax on medicine,' he said.

At least 48,000 cancer cases are diagnosed annually in the country.

During this year's World Cancer Commemoration day held in Meru town, Health CS Sicily Kariuki said cancer deaths have risen to about 33,000 every year and asked county governments and the public to raise awareness on the disease.

On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to establish chemotherapy centers in Mombasa, Kakamega, Garissa, Nyeri, Nakuru and Machakos.

He announced the government will train more oncologists.

Statistics show that less than 15 per cent of women in the reproductive age have sought cervical cancer screening.

Only 10 per cent have gone through a clinical breast examination.

"We must put great emphasis on early screening and detection to reverse the unfortunate situation," the CS Kariuki said in a speech read on her behalf by the head of no-communicable diseases Joseph Mwangi.

She said the ministry is focusing on prevention and control of the disease.

Prostate cancer, stomach and oesophagus are the most common in Meru men while breast, cervical and stomach cancers are the most prevalent among women.

"To address the cancer burden, the national government is implementing the National Cancer Control Strategy of 2017-2022 as a unifying framework that will guide stakeholders involved in cancer prevention and control," Kariuki said.

"The strategy has prioritised key pillars that are critical to holistic cancer prevention and control namely, screening and early detection, diagnosis, registration and surveillance, treatment, palliative care and survivorship, coordination, partnership and financing and finally monitoring, evaluation and research," she said.

The CS said the government has devolved and operationalised new chemotherapy units in 10 counties aimed to decongest Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Kenyatta National Hospital.
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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Aug 5, 2019
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