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For 400 cancer patients in Uganda, another chance at living a long life may be just around the corner, following the efforts made by the Aga Khan University Hospital to formalise free radiotherapy treatment for them. Yesterday, the hospital which is based in Nairobi, Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ugandan Ministry of Health allowing them to commence the free treatment of cancer patients, while the Ugandan government works on replacing its broken down – and only – radiotherapy machine. The patients will be travelling to the hospital in Kenya in batches of 20 individuals.

Every year in Uganda, around 3,000 people need radiotherapy treatment, and this exceeds the ability of the country’s cancer institute to treat them adequately. These patients usually have to rely on the option of travelling overseas to access the level of specialised healthcare that they require, and most cannot afford to. Thus, to support such individuals, the Aga Khan hospital is entering into partnerships such as the present one with the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) to help reduce their health and financial burdens.

The UCI, which is committed to researching and treating cancer in Uganda, has been plagued with infrastructural challenges that hamper its effectiveness. This includes equipment that are inadequate and obsolete, unavailability of funds, lack of drugs and poor staffing. Therefore, the current partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network will assist in boosting the confidence and capability of the institute.

For now, approved cancer patients with tumours and significant chances of surviving their ordeal will be provided with road transportation to Nairobi. The Uganda High Commission will provide the patients with accommodation in Nairobi, along with other forms of support that they would require. In the long run, however, plans are being made to establish the Aga Khan hospital in Kampala, and Ugandan cancer patients would soon be able to access specialised healthcare in their home country.

The Aga Khan hospital made their intentions to support the Ugandan Ministry of Health known in April when the only radiotherapy machine in the country malfunctioned. The signing of the MoU took place yesterday in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Ministry of Health in Kampala, and was signed in the presence of representatives of the ministry and the Aga Khan Development Network.

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