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Kenya seeks IAEA help to step up cancer treatment

This came as Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter outlined the country’s progress towards setting up a nuclear power plant following last week’s publication of the Nuclear Regulatory Bill in readiness for debate by Parliament/FILE

VIENNA, Kenya, Nov 29 – Kenya has sought the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to step up treatment of cancer at its two referral hospitals and extend the services to the country’s three other major towns.

This came as Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter outlined the country’s progress towards setting up a nuclear power plant following last week’s publication of the Nuclear Regulatory Bill in readiness for debate by Parliament.

Addressing an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ministerial conference in Vienna, Austria, Keter said the IAEA was instrumental in the establishment of cancer treatment centres at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi and Eldoret’s Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital (MTRH).

“We are grateful that the Agency (IAEA) has partnered with the government to expand cancer treatment programme to include Moi referral Hospital. This will ease the burden on Kenyatta National Hospital while covering the rural areas in the Rift Valley and beyond,” he told the gathering.

Keter informed the conference, whose them was to address “current and emerging challenges” in nuclear science and technology, that Kenya was expanding high level treatment services of the country main killer disease to the Coast Provincial General Referral Hospital in Mombasa, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu and Nyeri Provincial Hospital.

“In this context, support towards equipping the specific hospitals and capacity building, especially in diagnosis and treatment of cancer is crucially and highly needed,” he said. The CS was accompanied by Kenya National Electricity Board (KNEB) director general Collins Juma and Kenya Electricity Generating Company Managing Director Rebecca Miano.

During a side meeting with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, Keter spoke of the severity of the cancer disease in Kenya and urged the Agency to step in and help.

“Cancer is on the rise and is a very worrying disease. Cancer patients going to India is now like medical tourism. Provision of equipment to Kenya will help in the treatment of cancer not only in Kenya but to other countries in the region. As a country we have as one of the government’s f achieving Universal Health Care and equipping health facilities with necessary equipment is part of it,” he said.
Amano, who is passionate about treatment of cancer through radiotherapy, described Kenya as one of the IAEA’s centres in the world and promised to extend their support to equipping the provincial referral hospitals in Mombasa, Nyeri and Kisumu.

“Progress in the treatment of cancer is very import and our nuclear health department is extending its programs to several African countries. Kenya is one of the centres in Africa and we are happy to support,” he said.

During the ministerial meeting at the Vienna International Conference Centre, Keter assured the delegates that Kenya was at the tail end of passing laws that will guide the establishment of the country’s first nuclear plant to generate energy for peaceful uses. The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Bill, which was approved in August by the Cabinet, he said, has been published.

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“The government has enacted and will complete the necessary legislations, framework and infrastructure to support the development of nuclear energy for peaceful use. The Nuclear Regulatory Bill was published last week and we are going through all the stages as required by the agency before we establish a nuclear power plant,” he said.

He disclosed that technical research towards establishment of the nuclear power plant, which was now at the stage of grid and site studies, reactor technology assessment and industrial involvement.

Juma, the KNEB’s boss, explained that a team from the IAEA was in the country on a mission to assess the identified sites for establish a nuclear power plant. “The IAEA mission is currently in Nairobi taking people to the sites which we have identified. This is why we are hare with KenGen MD (Rebecca Miano) who will be the operator of the plant,” he said on the sidelines of the conference.

Seeking to correct the impression that nuclear energy was confined to deadly weapons, the CS explained that Kenya’s nuclear program involves the ministries of Energy, Health, Agriculture and Water. The regulatory authority of the nuclear programme, he said, will be domiciled at the Interior Affairs ministry to avoid sibling jostling between ministries involved.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Authority will be housed under the Interior Affairs ministry. We thought the Interior Ministry will be neutral to avoid sibling tussles between respective ministries,” he said.

Keter and his delegation also held talks with IAEA’s deputy director general in charge of the agency’s technical cooperation, Dazhu Yang and the agency’s director for Africa technical operations Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak.


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