World Cancer Day Raises Issue Of Treatment for Patients in Gaza

mythsWorld Cancer Day – INCB reiterates the right to access internationally controlled narcotic drugs for the relief of pain and suffering

At the opening of the 109th session of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a day before the World Cancer Day on 4 February, INCB President Raymond Yans reaffirmed the importance of the international drug control conventions in ensuring the availability and rational use of narcotic drugs for the relief of pain and suffering. “All people have the right to access internationally controlled narcotic drugs for the relief of pain and suffering” said Mr. Yans, pointing to the global increase in cancer cases, particularly in developing countries, and to the disparities in the availability of opioid painkillers.

Often seen as a disease of rich countries, international data show that over 70 per cent of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. There were 32.6 million people (over the age of 15 years) who had been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years, according to 2012 international data. Projections of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, predict a substantive increase to 19.3 million new cancer cases per year by 2025, due to growth and ageing of the global population. More than half of all cancers (56.8 per cent) and cancer deaths (64.9 per cent) in 2012 occurred in less developed regions of the world, and these proportions are likely to increase further by 2025.

This year, World Cancer Day is marked around the world as patients in the Gaza Strip continue to struggle in the absence of appropriate health care. Necessary medications and treatments are often not found in Gaza due to the stifling Israeli closure. There is currently only one MRI scanner for diagnoses, located at the Gaza European Hospital; however, the machine hasn’t worked for two months as Israeli authorities have denied transportation of a needed device for the machine. The hospitals in Gaza also lack materials for sample tinctures and nuclear and PET (positron emission topography) scans.

Chemical medication is also desperately needed as supplies are often back logged several months. There is also a significant lack of psychological support and Palliative care, which relieves suffering and enables patients to continue their lives naturally.

Patients often need to be referred for treatment outside the Gaza Strip in order to be able to receive medication; however, the Israeli restrictions on movement and access prevent many patients from travelling to Israel or the West Bank to receive medical treatment. Being unable to diagnose or treat cancer effectively, patients are at an unnecessary risk of dying.

Al Mezan for Human Rights feels the suffering and pain of cancer patients in the Gaza Strip particularly in their inability to access their right to health. Al Mezan asserts the importance of working together to enable cancer patients to realize their rights. Al Mezan calls for the:

1. International community to uphold its moral and legal responsibility and to work immediately to ensure that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can access their right to health;

2. International community to immediately intervene to end Israeli collective punishment and to oblige Israel to uphold its legal responsibilities in ensuring access to healthcare and medical treatment for people in occupied Palestine; and

3. End to the Palestinian internal political split and the separation of service areas from political conflicts to ensure better management of the health sector.

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