Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest public provider of cancer care in all of Iraq, received a donation of specifically requested, targeted chemotherapy medication valued at $1.03 million USD from Direct Relief over the weekend.
The medications were donated by Mylan and Ascend Laboratories, and the shipment was coordinated with Kurdistan Save the Children.
The infusion of medicine enables hospital staff to continue providing essential advanced cancer treatment services to patients.
In the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, access to healthcare and medicine affordability remains a challenge for many.
The region is emerging from a tumultuous economic recession, which started in 2014. Instability in the region was compounded in 2016 when conflicts in Iraq and Syria triggered a massive influx of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, and refugees into Iraqi Kurdistan. As of 2019, an estimated 2 million IDPs and refugees reside in Iraqi Kurdistan, further straining the region’s limited public resources.
In the public healthcare sector, budget cuts and increased patient load have led to a shortage of essential medicines needed to treat a wide array of health conditions. Patients already short on cash have had no other choice than to purchase their prescriptions from private pharmacies or healthcare providers; for many with chronic or life-threatening conditions, such as those with cancer, this untenable expense has driven many into poverty.
For the estimated 2,000 to 4,000 patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer in the region annually, approximately 3,000 are treated in Slemani at Hiwa Cancer Hospital. Many of those patients are documented IDPs and refugees in precarious financial situations.
Cancer in the Developing World
Cancer has become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with tens of millions diagnosed with the disease each year. That’s why reducing early death from the disease is one of the World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to reduce mortality from noncommunicable diseases including cancer by one-third by 2030.
While much of the disease burden is currently found in developed countries, 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries – signaling major equity gaps in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment.
As populations continue to grow and age, and as data gathering in low-resource settings becomes more reliable, the majority of newly diagnosed cancer cases are expected to shift to countries with fewer resources.
And with health resources in these places already spread thin, it remains crucial to strengthen and assist local cancer care providers.
Targeting Treatment Across 35 Countries
Direct Relief has delivered approximately $106 million USD of oncology and adjunctive therapies to facilities providing cancer treatment across 35 countries since 2016. Direct Relief is also a member and implementing partner of the Union for International Cancer Control and its City Cancer Challenge Initiative, as well as the Global Coalition Against Cervical Cancer.