After two-year wait, Uganda gets its new cancer machine

Saturday January 20 2018

The new Cobalt 60 Radiotherapy Machine being installed at Mulago hospital in Kampala, Uganda on January 19, 2018.

The new Cobalt 60 Radiotherapy Machine being installed at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda on January 19, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

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Uganda's only radiotherapy machine has officially been replaced, nearly two years after the previous one broke down, giving hope to cancer patients who had been denied a crucial tool against the disease.

The failure of the old machine in March 2016 caused a public outcry and was seen as symbolising the deterioration of Uganda's medical services.

Since 1995, Mulago Hospital in Kampala had become a hub for treating cancer patients across east Africa, many of them coming from countries lacking radiotherapy equipment.

On Friday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the new $815,000 Cobalt-60 machine, housed in a concrete bunker at the hospital, is part of a "vision of becoming the East African centre of excellence in the management of oncology."

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which helped install the new machine, said the commissioning is a "major cause of celebration".

The agency and the Ugandan government each paid half of the cost of the machine which is capable of treating up to 120 people a day.

"In 28 countries in Africa there are no cancer machines. (Patients) cannot be diagnosed and they cannot be treated," said Amano.

Dr Jackson Orem, director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, toldAFP that about 5,000 cases are referred to the institute each year. Many patients show up with cancer that is already at an advanced stage.