Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President has commended the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for launching the ‘Rays of Hope’ initiative to increase access to radiotherapy for cancer patients in low to middle-income countries.
The initiative targets middle-income countries with the highest cancer rates and lowest rates in screening, diagnosis, therapy, and treatment.
The First Lady was speaking while receiving a team from the IAEA on a courtesy visit, according to the statement by the Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity Office of the First Lady Aliyu Abdullahi.
She said she was happy with the visit because of her involvement in cancer advocacy and her experiences which exposed her to identify gaps in the sector, calling on the IAEA to do more to reduce the casualty figures for cancer in Africa.
Mrs. Buhari said advocacy for cancer therapy is important because most patients who can afford proper cancer management usually travel abroad to get it, while the majority of patients, who are unable, remain with little or no management care.
She further expressed optimism that ‘Rays of Hope’ will change the narrative on cancer in Nigeria and Africa.
“My foundation in collaboration with some development partners has done a lot in the area of improvement of healthcare delivery in Nigeria, and would like to leave a lasting legacy in that regard,” said, Mrs. Buhari.
Earlier, the Chairman, Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Yusuf A. Ahmed, said the courtesy call was aimed at bringing to the attention of the First Lady, the work of the IAEA in the area of the peaceful use of atomic energy, and the provision of support to countries in implementing their nuclear science and technology agenda.
He said the IAEA is aware of the efforts of the First Lady in the area of health advocacy and support and desires a partnership with Future Assured Foundation as a veritable platform for interface with communities in Nigeria.
Also, the Director of Technical Cooperation, IAEA, Professor Shaukat Abdurrazak spoke more on the Rays of Hope, as an initiative of IAEA, which focuses on prioritizing high-impact, cost-effective and sustainable interventions in line with national needs and commitment.
He said with more than 19 million new cases and 10 million deaths in 2020, the cancer disease places its heaviest burden on low- and middle-income countries, with over 70% of cancer deaths, noting that the assistance provided by the IAEA for over 60 years, has enabled many countries to establish and strengthen safe, secure, and effective radiation medicine capabilities.
Furthermore, Prof. Abdulrazak called on the First Lady to raise her voice in the fight against cancer both within Nigeria and in her capacity as President of the African First Ladies Peace Mission, especially in the area of investment and government co-sharing.
Finally, the delegation called on Mrs. Buhari to intervene in addressing the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with the importation of cancer equipment.