By Patricia Kapulula
Lilongwe, Mana: The UN Project Malawi has emphasised on the need to invest in research that takes into consideration clinical care in order to inform treatment care that can be put in place.
UNC Project Malawi Director for Cancer Program, Dr Tamiwe Tomoka, said in an interview on Monday that research is important as it is where answers are sought based on the problems and needs.
She expressed concern that up until 2010, Malawi had no deliberate efforts in cancer control and care strategies.
“From that time the Ministry of Health made deliberate efforts to put in place cancer care. This tells us that we did not have any baseline information with regards to the burden of cancer, what kind of cancers we have in Malawi and what sort of people the cancers are affecting hence the need for research,” she said.
However, Tomoka said the country has made huge strides in terms of cancer research citing organisations such as Ministry of Health, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, UNC Project and Baylor working in collaboration in terms of research.
According to Tomoka UNC Project Malawi, in collaboration with partners, has done research that is now informing on treatment and strategies on surveillance as well as care and diagnosis.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative, Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, said there is need for research that does not just end on paper but feed into policy and actions that will improve access to care and outcomes of care.
She said despite challenges Malawi is facing, it is making strides in the fight against cancer citing screening for cervical cancer and provision of HPV vaccine.
Tomoka further said however there is still more work to do to ensure access to early screening and detection.
“Government has to invest more in terms of infrastructure, human resource, awareness, access to treatment and ensure consistency in drug supply,” she said.
Deputy Minister of Health, Enock Phale concurred with Kimambo saying Malawi is making strides in the fight against cancer.
He said the National Cancer Strategy is one of the strategies that is addressing issues of cancer.
“We are also intensifying awareness to create demand and we will be improving as required,” said Phale.
Malawi registers about 19,000 new cancer cases that are being diagnosed and 2,500 deaths each year.
UNC Malawi Cancer Program on Monday organised a two day Malawi Cancer Symposium where key stakeholders were invited to present on issues related to cancer strategy, care, advocacy and research in Malawi.
The fourth symposium is being held under the theme “integrating research and care to improve cancer outcomes.”