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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General (DG) Visits Nigeria, Pledges Increased Cancer Care Support

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The IAEA Director General was in Nigeria this week to help increase access to vital nuclear technologies for cancer care, in his first official visit to the country since taking office.

Rafael Mariano Grossi was invited by First Lady Senator Oluremi Tinubu to to speak at the High-level Regional Seminar on Promoting Cancer Awareness and Advocacy Programmes for the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

During his opening address, the Director General said: “Every day 2000 Africans die of cancer. Around 80 per cent of Africans do not have any access to radiotherapy. Any at all.

“The IAEA is about concrete projects,” Mr Grossi continued. “It is about giving you the technology, it is about training your doctors, your oncologists, your radiotherapists, so that they are able to provide these services to your people. And this is what we are going to be doing with Rays of Hope.”

Many of the first ladies who spoke at the event mentioned their countries’ partnerships with the IAEA, and how these were helping drive progress towards health goals. Both the First Lady of Gambia Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow and First Lady of Sierra Leone Dr Fatima Maada Bio said they appreciated the support from the IAEA in working towards the first radiotherapy centres in their countries.

Dr Maada added: “Our agenda now is to make sure we have our own facility in Sierra Leone – where we can treat our own people in our own country.”

Before the cancer seminar, Mr Grossi visited the National Hospital Abuja, alongside Minister of Health Dr Tunji Alausa, to speak with medical staff and view firsthand the issues they face maintaining key radiotherapy equipment and hiring trained experts.

The Director General was shown a Linear Accelerator radiotherapy machine that had already treated 50 patients that day, but was out of order regularly due to ongoing maintenance issues. He also saw a brachytherapy machine for providing internal radiotherapy, which is the only one available to treat 60 million people in the area. Nigeria has asked the IAEA to coordinate an imPACT review this year to help improve its cancer control programme.

At the end of his visit, Mr Grossi said: “It is very clear that Nigerians need more access to cancer treatment than is currently available. We need to amplify the support. You can count on us.”

Dr Emmanuella Nwachukwu, Head of the Radiotherapy and Oncology Department, agreed: “We were immensely pleased to receive the Director General and take him on a tour of the facility, showing him how we have put to good use the various benefits we received from the IAEA in the last two decades, while sharing our challenges, as well as our requests that we need to improve radiotherapy services and cancer care at the National Hospital Abuja.”

During his two-day visit, the Director General also met with senior members of the government, such as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation George Akume, to discuss cancer care and other development priorities, including sustainable energy.

Nigeria is currently planning its own nuclear power programme, with the IAEA’s support. Mr Grossi told Mr Akume that this is “a logical move for a country of your size and importance.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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