By Denis Jjuuko
A few months ago, a friend had his father diagnosed with prostate cancer and they had to fly him to India for treatment. As he ran around for the visa at the Indian High Commission in Kampala, he realized that there were about 100 people everyday submitting papers for medical visas. This number didn’t include the VIPs whose papers are processed by government agencies and/or their company staff.
At the small hospital where my friend’s father was admitted in Mumbai, they receive on average 20 patients every month from Uganda alone. The average cost for such treatment is USD20,000. So Ugandans every month spend on average USD400,000 to this hospital and in Mumbai. That is approximately Shs1.6b every month. And yet the majority of Ugandans who seek medical treatment in India go to hospitals in New Delhi. So if 100 Ugandans go to India to every month spending USD20,000 on average, that is USD2m or Shs8b. Many other people go to other countries for treatment.
Actually, there are reports that Uganda spends USD150m or approximately Shs600b treating its officials abroad every year. Those are 33.3 cancer centres each with two Linear Accelerators and two bunkers that this country could build in just one year.
Some other people who have social media influencers and colleagues in high places do fundraisers to enable them travel to India, Kenya, and South Africa among others. Admittedly, the majority of Ugandans can’t afford this treatment out of this country so once they are diagnosed with cancer, it is most likely a death sentence. There have been stories running in the media of what it takes to be treated at Mulago. Many people according to these reports are stranded there.
On Wednesday last week, Rotarians walked into Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s office to launch the Rotary Cancer Run this year. Kadaga had accepted to this meeting and Rotary had mobilized its top honchos led by District Governor Sharmirah Bhatt. At one stage, the Speaker was asked to pick a placard and she chose one which had “I am running for my dad.” The boardroom went silent for a few minutes and some people were seen with tears forming in their eyes.
Like Speaker Kadaga, you probably also know somebody who has died of cancer and you may consider to do something. Something that could benefit all of us. Through the Rotary Cancer Run, now in its seventh year, Rotarians with support from partners and friends have managed to build a cancer treatment at Nsambya Hospital even though it still lacks a modern cancer treatment machine — a Linear Accelerator.
For the past two years, people across the country have been running to raise USD4.5m (Shs18b) needed to buy two linear accelerators and build their respective bunkers. Two machines are necessary so that when one is down or being serviced, people don’t have to die while waiting. I am proud to be a member of the team of volunteers who organize this run. Over the past two years, we have raised Shs1.1b, which is in the bank, but we need Shs17b to complete the job. It is a very big challenge but I am sure we’ll over come. And if we spend Shs8b on average on Indian hospitals (without what government spends on its fat cats) every month, we can spend it here and the economy would benefit. This means that we collectively register to run on Sunday August 26 this year throughout Uganda and urging our corporate bodies to contribute as well. That way, we can have this latest cancer treatment machine installed in Uganda at Nsambya Hospital. The hospital has already offered the land where the bunkers will be built.
With Linear Accelerators installed, cancer if detected early, will stop being a death sentence to the majority of Ugandans. Ugandans will too save the money they have been donating to these foreign hospitals. This means that supporting the Rotary Cancer Run is the right thing to do.
The author is a communication and visibility consultant and Chair PR for the Rotary Cancer Run 2018. email@example.com
*Photo of Hon Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament pledging to run for her dad. Who will you be running for? #RotaryCancerRun18