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Free cancer therapy for 400 Ugandans

BBC News BBC News 19/04/2016

A Kenyan hospital is to provide free cancer treatment to 400 patients from Uganda as the neighbouring country's only radiotherapy machine has broken.

The Aga Khan University Hospital said it would do all it could to help and encouraged others to do the same.

The breakdown of the machine in Uganda has left thousands at risk of missing potential life-saving treatment.

Uganda's government has said it will cover the travel and other costs for the 400 going to the Nairobi hospital.

The private, not-for-profit hospital in the Kenyan capital has two radiotherapy units and six radiation oncologists.

Radiotherapy treatment can be expensive - and most patients in Uganda are unable to afford to pay for the treatment.

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Limbo for Uganda's cancer patients

"We are committed to working with the government of Uganda to help save the lives of cancer patients in need of treatment while it works to re-establish its radiation therapy capacity," Aga Khan University Hospital's CEO Shawn Bolouk said in a statement.

"Our values as an institution dictate nothing less. While we can only treat a small fraction of those requiring care, given our resources and the tremendous need that exists, we will do all we can to help, and we encourage others to follow our lead."

Details of how to transport the patients were being worked out by the relevant authorities, the hospital statement added.

The BBC's Catherine Byaruhanga in Uganda's capital, Kampala, says the Ugandan government has also agreed to pay for the 400 patients' accommodation and food as well as for those of a relative or friend if an attendant is needed.

The government says it has purchased a new radiotherapy machine and it should be up and running in six months, once a special bunker has been built to house the radioactive equipment at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.

Other treatments are still available in Uganda, but the cancer institute at Mulago Hospital says that three-quarters of the 44,000 new cancer patients in Uganda last year needed radiotherapy.

Patients from Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan are also referred to Mulago Hospital for radiotherapy.

The treatment uses radiation to target and kill cancerous cells in a specific part of the body, and can be used for many types of cancer.

The incidence of cancer is on the rise in Africa overall as life expectancy increases.

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