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Zimbabweans Call for Public Debate on Proposed Cancer Tax

The United States has approved new prostate cancer treatment as the disease grips Zimbabwe. (Photo/VOA)
The number of people succumbing to cancer in Zimbabwe is rising, forcing residents of Bulawayo to call on the government to engage the nation on how best people can access treatment which in most cases is beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker Thokozani Khupe recently called on the government to introduce a cancer levy saying more people in the country were succumbing to various types of the disease with the country lagging behind in terms of research and treatment.

Activists, cancer survivors and families that have seen relatives struggling with cancer, quickly applauded Khupe for moving a motion in parliament. Now, Bulawayo residents are joining the debate and calling on the government to initiate a national debate on cancer as the disease is fast becoming an indisputable epidemic in Zimbabwe.

Ms Khupe, a cancer survivor herself, put cancer treatment $10,000 for the whole drug regime, adding it costs $300 per radiotherapy or chemotherapy session, which is beyond the reach of many.

Currently, Zimbabwe only has two public hospitals treating cancer - Mpilo in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare - which are grappling with the shortage of specialists and equipment.

Bulawayo resident, Emelda Sithole, says cancer is fast becoming a scourge in the same way HIV was in the 1990s. But she says taxing the already overburdened tax payer is not the solution.

Another Bulawayo resident, Garfield Mangena, says while the debate on the cancer levy is welcome, government needs to meet its responsibilities to citizens and revamp the public health sector without passing the cost to tax payers.

Mangena adds that the public health sector is failing to cope with the number of women in particular being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer and prostrate cancer in men.

Clarke, a breast cancer survivor, says the stress associated with failing to meet treatment costs is the major cause of deaths for most failing to pay for treatment in this harsh economic environment.

Social commentator, Sifiso Ncube, said citizens should demand accountability and service delivery from government, especially when it involves health care, a basic human right.

According to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, at least 33 percent of women diagnosed with cancer in 2009 in the country had cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer also accounted for about 8 percent of all cancer deaths in the same year.

The World Health Organisation says cancer causes seven million deaths annually worldwide.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health and United Nations agency, United Nations Population Fund, at least 1,800 women in Zimbabwe are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year of which 1,200 lose their fight to survive. Cancer can, however, be successfully treated if diagnosed in its early stages.