Benin has approximately 7 000 new cancer cases each year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) Global Cancer Observatory, and close to 5 000 cancer deaths annually. To help address these relatively low survival rates, sufficiently equipped facilities, trained staff and modern technology, as well as a comprehensive National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP), are needed.
Since the beginning of this year, a technical team organized by Benin’s National Programme for the Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (PNLMNT) have been planning for the development and implementation of a National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) to address the country’s growing cancer burden. These efforts have been supported by IAEA and World Health Organization (WHO) experts who, under the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, have helped validate the priorities and objectives of the draft NCCP, and are providing training support as the Benin government invests in the construction of a new national hospital – Abomey-Calavi Reference Hospital – which will offer, for the first time in the country, radiotherapy and nuclear medicine services. The delivery of critical equipment to the hospital will also be supported through Rays of Hope.
“The Ministry of Health in Benin is committed to ongoing investments in cancer control, and the NCCP is a key strategic document to support these efforts,” said Lamidhi Salami, President of the National Committee for Primary Health Care (CNSSP). “This plan highlights the importance of a strong primary care system to provide accessible and comprehensive cancer care, starting at the first contact of the patient with the health system.”
Benin officially launched its NCCP development process at a virtual workshop on 3 August 2022. During the launch, the PNLMNT technical team discussed the methodologies it intended to use to elaborate the NCCP with IAEA, WHO and IARC experts. The international experts provided a draft situational analysis report identifying the current state of cancer care in Benin, to be used as a supporting reference for the plan.
By the end of October, the Beninois technical team had reviewed the situational analysis, extracted priorities and objectives for inclusion in the draft NCCP document, and completed a first full draft of the plan.
Then earlier this month – from 6 to 9 December – a workshop was organized by Benin’s Ministry of Health, with the support of IAEA and international experts, to review the progress achieved in the development of the National Cancer Care Programme and to validate the priorities and objectives established by the experts of the Benin National Programme for the Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. The attending national, IAEA and WHO experts established specific activities for each ongoing cancer-related IAEA technical cooperation project in Benin, and assigned time-bound targets for their implementation.
“WHO is pleased to participate in the elaboration of Benin’s new National Cancer Control Plan. This tool will help align the technical cooperation among the different UN agencies providing cancer control support in the country, resulting in more efficient and equitable outcomes,” said Souleymane Zan, WHO Representative to Benin.
At the workshop, it was agreed that during the period of the NCCP (2023 – 2027), Beninois and IAEA experts would pursue the inauguration of the new reference hospital; the development of a human resources plan, including recruitment, training and deployment; and the establishment of prevention and early detection programmes for cervical cancer at the national level – responsible for the second largest number of deaths among women, after breast cancer – with specific attention to community health services.
Alongside six other countries in Africa, Benin is an inaugural partner country working with the IAEA under Rays of Hope. In the 10 months since Rays of Hope was launched, the initiative has facilitated the mobilization of resources to build, equip and sustain cancer care infrastructure, as well as to train specialists, health workers and technicians, with the ultimate aim of expanding access to cancer diagnosis and treatment services in low- and middle-incoming countries.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).