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Malawi Delegation Visits Carolina in Advance of National Cancer Center Opening

June 21, 2018
Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases

To Dan Namarika, the opening of Malawi’s first National Cancer Center is a dream realized.

“I wanted to see this center built during my lifetime,” he said. “For Malawians, this is something we’ve been wanting. It’s the first of its kind in Malawi.”

Namarika is the principal secretary for the Malawi Ministry of Health. He led a delegation that traveled from Malawi to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in June to strengthen the existing partnership between Malawi and Carolina. For more than 25 years, UNC-Chapel Hill faculty have been working alongside Malawian clinician-researchers at UNC Project-Malawi in Lilongwe, the nation’s capital. Carolina’s Satish Gopal leads the UNC Project-Malawi cancer program and is the only medical oncologist in the country of 18 million people. The visit was sponsored by the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.

Currently, Namarika said, Malawi is home to two of the three forms of cancer care. Surgery to remove cancer of the cervix and breast is available. Chemotherapy is performed at two hospitals in the country, but radiotherapy is not an option. The Malawian government helps patients travel to India for radiotherapy, which Namarika says limits access, is expensive and can be emotionally taxing.

Exterior of building
A rendering of what the new National Cancer Center in Lilongwe, Malawi, will look like.

“There is a committee that decides who travels to India for care and who does not, which is incredibly difficult,” Namarika said. “The new cancer center will increase access and allow people to get their care in-country.”

The National Cancer Center is being built on the campus of the Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), adjacent to UNC Project-Malawi in Lilongwe. KCH is one of two teaching hospitals in the country. Jonathan Ngoma is the hospital director and part of the delegation that visited Carolina.

“It was clear from our visit that UNC loves Malawi,” Ngoma said. “This visit has allowed us to make new friends and has opened doors for future collaboration, which will help us develop a strong cancer program and look after our cancer patients.”

The delegation toured the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Namarika said he was impressed with the cooperation between departments like pharmacy and radiology when treating cancer patients. He was also happy to see the strong role of nurses in providing cancer care.

“In Malawi, we need oncologists and other cancer specialists,” Namarika said. “But with good support, we can empower our nurses and nurse practitioners to engage with our cancer center. We will go home not overwhelmed by what we need, but with ideas for other opportunities.”

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