Su­dan cancer doc­tors eye US sanc­tions relief for pa­tients

Life-sav­ing drugs ex­empt from trade em­bar­goes

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Rest­ing on a hos­pi­tal bed af­ter a ses­sion of chemo­ther­apy, Su­danese banker Mo­hamed Hasan vividly re­calls the day when doc­tors told him he had blood cancer. It is a shock in any coun­try but in Su­dan, where ac­cess to drugs and treat­ment is im­paired by 20-yearold US sanc­tions, it can be more life-threat­en­ing. “It was the first week of my hon­ey­moon when I fell sick and was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal,” Hasan, 30, said as a nurse pre­pared him for a sponge bath. “I never imag­ined it would be cancer ... it was a real tragedy.”

For a year now, Hasan has been re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at the Ra­di­a­tion and Iso­topes Cen­tre Khartoum, the big­gest state-run cancer hos­pi­tal in Su­dan. Life-sav­ing drugs and med­i­cal equip­ment sup­plied to Su­dan are the­o­ret­i­cally ex­empt from Wash­ing­ton’s com­plex set of trade em­bar­goes. But re­stric­tions on bank­ing trans­ac­tions, ex­change of tech­nol­ogy and spare parts, and other cum­ber­some trade reg­u­la­tions have ham­pered treat­ment of pa­tients. The Khartoum cancer hos­pi­tal is no ex­cep­tion.

Two of its four ra­di­a­tion ther­apy ma­chines have been bro­ken for months and re­pair­ing them has be­come a night­mare, gen­eral man­ager Khatir Al-Alla said. “Their spare parts have to be brought from Amer­ica or Europe,” Alla said. “But be­cause of di­plo­matic is­sues we are fac­ing prob­lems.” Im­port­ing equip­ment or com­po­nents di­rectly from man­u­fac­tur­ers is cum­ber­some given the re­stric­tions on trans­fer­ring funds over­seas.

Long wait­ing lists

Wash­ing­ton im­posed sanc­tions on Khartoum in 1997 for its al­leged sup­port of Is­lamist mil­i­tant groups. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum be­tween 1992 and 1996. Over the years, suc­ces­sive US ad­min­is­tra­tions have tight­ened the sanc­tions, ac­cus­ing Khartoum of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the 14year-old con­flict with eth­nic mi­nor­ity rebels in the western re­gion of Dar­fur. Re­la­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Khartoum have im­proved in re­cent months, of­fi­cials say, and on Oc­to­ber 12 Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is to de­cide whether to lift the sanc­tions per­ma­nently.

But doc­tors say the sit­u­a­tion re­mains dif­fi­cult. The Khartoum cancer hos­pi­tal re­ceives about 1,000 new pa­tients a month, and an­other 500 visit daily for fol­low-ups.

“The wait­ing pe­riod is be­tween three to four weeks... which is too long for cancer pa­tients,” Alla said. Frus­trated with the long wait­ing pe­riod, Hasan now plans to seek fur­ther treat­ment in In­dia. The sit­u­a­tion is no dif­fer­ent at the Khartoum Breast Care Cen­tre (KBCC), the only spe­cial­ized fa­cil­ity in Su­dan to treat breast cancer.

The clinic’s mam­mog­ra­phy ma­chine has been bro­ken for weeks, said Bri­tish-trained ra­di­ol­o­gist Dr Ha­nia Fadl, the founder of the not-for-profit hos­pi­tal. “The prob­lem is with the ser­vice... we don’t have proper agents to ser­vice the equip­ment,” Fadl said. The tech­ni­cians have to come from Egypt or Kenya to fix the mam­mog­ra­phy ma­chine, the main equip­ment in de­tect­ing breast cancer. It be­comes a ma­jor con­cern when a new pa­tient comes to the clinic. She might have an eas­ily de­tectable lump in one breast, Fadl said, but in the ab­sence of a mam­mog­ra­phy ma­chine, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to de­tect if she has a small lump in the other.

“You have to have a mam­mo­gram done on the other breast ... it is manda­tory,” Fadl said. “If we go blindly and do the surgery, maybe af­ter two or three months we might find she got an­other one.” If the sanc­tions are fully lifted, re­pair­ing the ma­chines will take less time, she said. “If anything goes wrong ... the en­gi­neer will come and they will have spare parts lo­cally.” Fadl’s pa­tient Ghada Mo­hammed Ali, 47, who un­der­went surgery for breast cancer, said it was a big con­cern. “When we come for check-ups we find the ma­chine bro­ken,” she said. “I am wor­ried be­cause the cancer might have spread.”— AFP

KHARTOUM: A pa­tient un­der­goes ra­dio­ther­apy at Su­dan’s largest state-run cancer hos­pi­tal, the Ra­di­a­tion and Iso­topes Cen­tre Khartoum. — AFP

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