By Peter Opiyo
President Kibaki has enacted a law that will enhance the fight against cancer, a disease that kills about 18,000 people annually.
The president signed into law Cancer Prevention and Control Bill that establishes a body, which would deal with prevention, treatment and control of cancer.
The National Cancer Institute of Kenya will encourage establishment of hospitals and care centres for treatment of persons with cancer.
Studies by Kenya Medical Research Institute show cancer is the third major cause of deaths after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Official figures of those infected by the disease are not available since the country does not have a national registry for cancer patients. The institute will keep a national registry. Among information to be featured in the register are frequency, type and geographical location in which the disease is prevalent.
It would also contain information on institutions that provide care and services to cancer patients. The Bill makes it mandatory for any hospital that treats a cancer patient to deposit the same information with the institute within 14 days of diagnosis. Failure to submit the information is an offence that attracts a fine not exceeding Sh200,000 or a jail term not exceeding two years.
The enactment of the law comes at a time the disease has registered an upsurge, claiming prominent personalities in Kenya and across the world.
Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathaai and Court of Appeal Judge Moijo ole Keiwa died from the disease while Apple’s Steve Jobs also succumbed to cancer. Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Treatment of cancer has been hampered by deficiency of radiation machines at Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. Private hospitals that offer cancer treatment charge expensive fees locking out many people from accessing treatment.
The Bill outlaws discrimination against cancer patients. It also requires 47 county governments to mount educational and information campaigns, in conjunction with cancer prevention institute.