In his keynote address, President Bio said that the event’s theme: “I am and I will”, is a statement that emphasizes personal responsibility and personal empowerment; and is about inspiring individuals to action.
He urged everyone in the country to take personal responsibility, and called for collective mobilization to kick cancer out.
He added that there are very few trained oncologists in the entire country, not because the doctors and nurses do not want to be trained, but because they lack opportunities to get trained.
He further stated that as a result of a severe lack of medical equipment, surgical oncology or chemotherapy services in the country are limited or nearly impossible to access, resulting in Sierra Leoneans spending $1.5 million every year flying mainly to Ghana for cancer diagnosis and care.
President Bio added that financial and emotional burden inflicted by cancer, are unbearable for families and for the government.
“As a government, we have closely examined the problem, analyzed it, and undertaken purposeful planning. We believe that cancer is preventable, and that Sierra Leoneans should be fully informed about risk factors. We also believe that because early detection and diagnosis saves lives, we must intensify awareness campaigns. There is no place for misguided cultural notions about the symptoms of cancer or stigma for cancer patients.
“We also believe that cancer can be cured, and treatment must be accessible locally in Sierra Leone. That treatment must also be affordable to every Sierra Leonean who is diagnosed with cancer. In addition, we believe that we must seek out and offer training opportunities to our selfless and committed oncology nurses and doctors, so that we have a critical mass of dedicated medical personnel for diagnosing and treating cancer,” he said.
He said his government has taken steps towards establishing a National Diagnostic Centre and a Radiotherapy Cancer Treatment Centre, through a strategic partnership with VARIAN – a US based organization that is working in various African countries.