Kenya is getting overwhelmed by a surge in cancer related deaths and citizens are demanding urgent action.
On Thursday hundreds of patients and service providers staged a protest in the capital Nairobi.
They want the government to declare the disease a national disaster and allocate needed resources to fight it.
At least 33,000 people die from cancer annually in Kenya. Many patients are forced to seek medical care abroad once they have the means.
The poor who are unable to access needed funding and therapy are left to die.
Many patients screen for the disease very late when there is little to do to help them.
The government has said it wants to set up more chemotherapy and radiotherapy centres across the country.
But seeking treatment is becoming expensive for ordinary Kenyans. Only around 35 oncologists serve a population of 40 million people.
The limited number of care givers means there are always delays in treating patients.
Some patients have to pay as high as $19,171 to access cancer treatment, that is too expensive for majority who end up dying.
High profile persons dying from Cancer
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko this week said “Cancer is a serious disease. The reports we have now indicate that there are over 60 members of parliament with cancer.”
His comments followed news of the death of fellow governor Joyce Laboso.
“As leaders, we need to strategize on the way forward and how we will deal with the disease,” Sonko added.
Recently Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore passed away due to cancer.
In September 2011, Kenya’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and world renowned environmentalist Professor Wangari Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.
Philip Odiyo, Patient Support Manager at Faraja Cancer Support Trust, told DW that “The cancer situation has been on for a while but we are seeing more diagnosis.
Unfortunately, 80 to 90% of the diagnosis are discovered at the late stage cancer.”
Cancer is the third leading cause of death in Kenya. Kenyans government is now under pressure to act quickly to address the crisis.