Cancer Care Center to be developed at Aga Khan Hospital Tanzania

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  • The Cancer Care Centre will serve as a key hub for the innovative Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project (TCCP)
  • The Project has the forward-looking goal of reducing cancer morbidity and mortality in the targeted regions of Dar es Salaam and Mwanza
  • The TCCP is expected to directly benefit approximately 1.7 million people and will work with regional health management teams, as well as council health management teams

The Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, has laid the foundation stone for its state-of-the-art Cancer Care Centre.

Launched by the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) in January 2020, the Cancer Care Centre will serve as a key hub for the innovative Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project (TCCP).

The Project has the forward-looking goal of reducing cancer morbidity and mortality in the targeted regions of Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. It is a four-year, public-private initiative funded by Agence Française de Development (AFD), as well as the Aga Khan Foundation, and with total funding of TZS 38 billion (13.3 million Euro), TCCP is a first-of-its-kind initiative focusing on addressing the impact of Non-Communicable Diseases in Tanzania.

The TCCP Project is expected to be a rich source of learning for future programming and investments and will inform policymakers and strategic planners on cancer control in the country. It is expected to directly benefit approximately 1.7 million people and will work with regional health management teams, as well as council health management teams to support the establishment of basic cancer care services in 100 public primary care health facilities in the targeted regions.

The foundation laying ceremony on Sunday, April 10, was attended by Chief Guest, Minister of Health, Honourable Ummy Ally Mwalimu and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Aga Khan Health Services, alongside government officials, diplomatic missions, development partners, healthcare stakeholders and dignitaries.

TCCP brings together key health institutions, specifically the Aga Khan Health Service, Tanzania (AKHS, T), Ocean Road Cancer Institute, Muhimbili National Hospital, Bugando Medical Centre, Aga Khan Foundation Tanzania, and Aga Khan University under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government, with technical support provided by Institute Curie, the French foundation for cancer research.

Minister of Health of the United Republic of Tanzania Ummy Mwalimu, and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Chair of the Executive Committee of The Aga Khan Health Services unveil the plaque at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Cancer Care Centre, Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam. [Photo/ AKHD-CCC Foundation]
“We know that non-communicable diseases, including cancer, affect us all,” said Honourable Minister Ummy Ally Mwalimu, speaking at the ceremony.

“Cancer is a disease that affects people of all ages and genders, children and adults, women and men. We all know people whose lives have been cut short by cancer.  It also causes significant losses to the Nation because the disease reduces the workforce and slows down the development of the individual and the nation.”

“The construction of this centre has come at an appropriate time for our country. The Government is committed to actively improving health services and social development for all Tanzanians, including cancer services,” she added.

Despite being launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, TCCP has successfully implemented several planned activities, trained over 330 healthcare workers in cervical and breast cancer screening and provided other vital training for cancer care.

The Project has also procured, and installed equipment valued at TZS 1b at Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Bugando Medical Centre, including a mammography machine, which was inaugurated last month.

Beyond this, the Project has helped build capacity at the local level by training over 400 community health care workers and raising public awareness of cancer by printing and distributing over 3,000 books, as well as 5,000 Information, Communication and Education (ICE) materials.

The most recent foundation stone-laying ceremony marks a significant milestone achievement for TCCP as it successfully kicks off the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam to include a cutting-edge cancer care unit valued at TZS 250 billion, with an expected completion date of March 2024.

“Today’s ceremony marks a critical project objective of enhancing comprehensive cancer care facilities in the country,” said Princess Zahra Aga Khan. “Statistics from the United Nations Cancer Research Organization show that there are 42,000 new cancer cases every year in Tanzania, with a high mortality rate of over 28,000 deaths per year. Almost 75% of the cases are diagnosed at a late stage. This is a major challenge that affects survival rates.”

“AKHS, T’s continued growth over nine decades is a strong testimony to our commitment to healthcare development in the country,” she added.

“Today, AKHS facilities are known for their high level of ethical practices, innovation and provision of quality, safe and evidence-based care.”

“Like many low-to-middle income countries, Tanzania has struggled with a ballooning number of cancer cases across the country and limited resources to treat cancer comprehensively,” said Dr. Harrison Chuwa, Manager, Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Project.

“By adopting a four-pronged strategy, TCCP aims to improve and expand the existing health system infrastructure for oncology; build the capacity of staff at participating institutions; strengthen community cancer awareness and engagement, and develop a joint research agenda and partnerships amongst the project collaborators.”

Ummy Mwalimu, Minister of Health of the United Republic of Tanzania in a conversation with Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Chair of the Executive Committee of The Aga Khan Health Services at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Cancer Care Centre, Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam. [Photo/ AKHD-CCC Foundation]
Recognizing the importance of the Project and the impact it will make on the lives of Tanzanians, the Government has allocated land surrounding the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam to ensure the institution can expand the scope of its cancer services so that citizens can easily access much-needed care.

In fact, the availability of services at the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam is expected to reduce patient wait times and delays at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute, another key partner in the TCCP.  It is expected that once the new Cancer Care Centre is open, a considerable portion of cancer patients who currently cannot afford treatment, will be able to secure welfare support to treat their disease.

Ms. Stephanie Mouen, Country Director of the French Development Agency (AFD) in Tanzania said, “with the best-qualified public and private partners around the table, I am confident that this TCCP project, once the Radiation Therapy Centre is commissioned and all equipment installed, will reach the  expected desired impact for the population through:

  1. better screening with a target of reaching out to more than 1.7 million patients,
  2. better prevention of cancer prevalence by increasing the number of patients diagnosed at an early stage from 20% to 50% of patients affected by tumours, and;
  3. training health care workers from tertiary up to dispensary level, as well as increasing cancer-related knowledge and awareness among the population through media and other communication channels.”

The Cancer Care Centre will work with the public health system to strengthen community cancer care practices, as well as services by delivering affordable, comprehensive health care services. It will include primary preventive services, screening, and early detection.

The new Centre will also work closely with government health facilities, to provide welfare support to needy patients.

Read: What the Pandemic is teaching us about Health System Readiness

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