IAEA and Islamic Development Bank Launch Women’s Cancers Partnership Initiative

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) today launched a drive to raise funds for projects helping countries tackle cancers that affect millions of women every year.

The Partnership Initiative to Increase Access to Diagnostics and Treatment of Women’s Cancers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries is an IAEA joint effort with the IsDB and other partners to increase cancer services for women in priority countries. During the opening of the 2019 IAEA Scientific Forum, the Bank announced a plan to mobilize an initial US $10 million in grant funding, which will help unlock further IsDB resources for the initiative.

The funds will go toward projects in 17 countries, which are both members of the IAEA and the IsDB: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire, Djibouti, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The projects will expand breast and cervical cancer control programmes, including the upgrade of over 40 cancer facilities through the procurement of equipment, training and education for 100 cancer care professionals – such as radiation oncologists, medical physicists and oncology nurses – and strengthening quality assurance in the use of nuclear and radiation medicine.

“Millions of women in developing countries suffer and die from cancers that would often be treatable if they had access to modern cancer care,” IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta said at today’s opening of the Scientific Forum. “I am pleased to announce the launch of a new initiative, in partnership with the Islamic Development Bank, to fund IAEA projects tackling women’s cancers in countries which are members of both the Bank and the Agency. I am grateful for the Bank’s support in this important effort.”

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with around two million new cases in 2018 alone. It is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in low- and middle-income countries, followed by cervical cancer.

Radiation therapy is a key component for treating women’s cancers: seven out of eight breast cancer patients are recommended to receive radiotherapy. Radiation medicine, including external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy, is also a main treatment modality for advanced cervical cancer, and about 70 percent of cervical cancer patients will need it for cure or palliation.

“I am very proud that we are launching this important partnership initiative today to fight women’s cancers, which will contribute to saving over one million women’s lives from breast cancer and 3.7 million women’s lives from cervical cancer over the next decade,” said IsDB President Bandar M.H. Hajjar. “As the global cancer burden continues to increase, international organizations, including multilateral development banks, are united in the desire to work together to address this challenge.”

The IAEA and IsDB have a longstanding collaboration to support Member States of both entities in improving cancer control. Since 2013, the IsDB has approved US $364 million in grants and loans for cancer control programmes in such countries.

Other donors and private sector companies are expected to pledge to the initiative.

The two-day Scientific Forum is taking place this week during the IAEA General Conference. Leading scientists and experts from around the world are reviewing successes and challenges related to the setting up of nuclear and radiation medicine services to address a growing cancer burden.

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