Globally, not just in Namibia and indeed in other African countries, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension are on the rise. Last week alone, three prominent Namibians succumbed to cancer.
In an interview with New Era yesterday regarding the escalating deadly disease, Dr Ademola Olajide, who is heading to New York after having served as Namibia country representative for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) since last year, confirmed the crisis of the disease ravaging the African continent.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in Namibia, followed by skin cancer, then Kaposi’s sarcoma, prostate and cervical cancer. Data from the Cancer Association of Namibia, which are compiled together with those of the government, show that in Namibia cancer has been on the rise since 2006 with 1 625 cases detected then, compared to 3 092 recorded in 2012.
In 2012, 458 cases of breast cancer were recorded, almost double the 229 cases recorded in 2006. Although Olajide could not provide figures related to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, he said the major contributing factor is peoples’ unhealthy lifestyles.
“A lot of these diseases are lifestyle illness. The kind of food we eat has changed, the way we prepare our food has changed, and our habits have changed. Smoking, alcohol and lack of exercise are all contributing factors that make people vulnerable to such non-communicable diseases,” he said.
In Africa cancer in particular has significantly been on the increase. He called on people to change their harmful lifestyles and adapt healthy ones to prevent such diseases.
“We need to re-trace our steps and get our lifestyles appropriate. We need to be careful what we feed our livestock, because eventually what we feed them is what we eat. If we feed them unhealthy and contaminated food, then people will also eat contaminated food. It is a whole lot of health issues that we need to put a hand on,” he cautioned. According to him, these types of diseases are very expensive to manage, as they further strain a nation’s health sectors if not prevented in time.
“They are cheaper to prevent but more expensive to manage,” he stated. He advised people to prevent non-communicable diseases by cutting down on sugary food, doing more exercise and avoiding toxic substances such as smoking and alcohol. He said cancer is no longer “a disease next door” as it can affect everyone. In the quest to promote healthy lifestyles, government last year gazetted and enforced the Tobacco Products Control Act No 1 of 2010, effectively banning people from smoking tobacco in public places.
The law also makes it compulsory for tobacco companies to package cigarettes in packs designed with pictures and warnings on the danger of smoking, as well as limit and control the advertising of tobacco in the country. So far, many cigarette packs bear graphic images of the effects of smoking as well as some warning messages on the dangers of smoking. Olajide congratulated the Namibian Government for enforcing the Tabacco Act that prohibits people from smoking in public.
“Early diagnosis is very important, people should not be in denial. If you find something that is not right, do not ignore it until it spread. Sometimes we Africans live in denial. You find a woman who feels a lump in her breast, but she lives in denial until it’s too late. We should not be in denial and pray that it will go away, we need to take action before it spreads,” he said.
Regarding the drought, he advised that Namibia needs to understand that the global climate is changing.
“What the world is trying to do is a refined post-2015 agenda which also takes the consequences of climate change into consideration. We must have a preparedness plan for it. We can’t continue to react to it anymore. We should be able to anticipate and then effectively react. It should not be an emergency – something that hit us unprepared,” he said.
Namibia should always be prepared and able to deploy, he said, explaining the need to build capacity for affected communities to be resilient.
“Yes we might say climate has changed and it’s difficult for people to survive. But we can ask ourselves are there places where it was always dry but communities found a way to survive. So if we need to build capacity, then we need to plan and trigger these plans while strengthening adaptive capacity because it is going to keep happening,” he stressed.
As an interim measure, government has allocated N$300 million to the drought relief programme due to the dry spell experienced over the past few years.
April 24th, 2015. by New Era
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