“In this country, if you fall sick and you don’t have money, just buy a coffin and sleep next to it awaiting death,” said one campaigner.
Rabat – A group of cancer patients and survivors in Morocco have launched a social media campaign under the hashtag “Mabghinach nmouto bsaratan” (We don’t want to die of cancer). The campaign seeks to improve healthcare for cancer patients in Moroccan hospitals and calls for free treatment.
Patients, who call themselves “warriors,” shared pictures of themselves carrying the campaign’s slogan. They also posted videos narrating their struggles with Moroccan hospitals and complaining about the high cost of cancer treatment in Morocco.
مابغيناش نموتو بالسرطان بغينا نتعالجو بالمجان
لا حول ولا قوة الا بالله العلي العظيم
Posted by الرحمة مباشر on Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Nihad, a 30-year-old cancer patient from Safi, shared her story in a 12-minute-long clip. According to her, negligence in hospitals is one of the main problems patients suffer from, as their situation is not taken seriously when cancer is in its early stages.
The patient also protested overcrowding in hospitals and the expensive costs of cancer treatment.
“In this country, if you fall sick and you don’t have money, just buy a coffin and sleep next to it awaiting death,” said Nihad in the footage, garnering the viewers’ empathy.
A number of activists reacted to the campaign by sharing articles and videos about it, and by expressing their demands to the Ministry of Health.
The posts criticized the Ministry of Health’s media campaigns. According to several patients, the campaigns are superficial and do not benefit the patients in any way.
The campaign started as a Facebook group for Moroccan cancer patients where they shared their pain and struggles and provided each other with emotional support.
The group then moved onto WhatsApp, before deciding to go public with their suffering and share the campaign on public social media, according to Meryem Elhatimi, one of the “warriors” from Safi.
Cancer in Morocco
According to 2017 statistics, nearly 40,000 Moroccans are diagnosed with cancer each year.
Breast cancer accounts for 36% of all cancer cases among female patients, making it the most common form of cancer among women, followed by cervical cancer (11.2%), thyroid cancer (8.6%), and colorectal cancer (5.9%).
For men, lung cancer is the most common form, accounting for 22% of all cases, followed by prostate cancer (12.6%), and colorectal cancer (7.9%).
Morocco has launched several projects to tackle cancer, such as creating regional centers for cancer treatment and increasing the number of medications available for cancer patients in Morocco.
The plans, however, are still falling short of Moroccan cancer sufferers’.
In 2018, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report on breast cancer patients in Morocco and an evaluation of Moroccan oncology centers.
The report criticized Morocco’s breast cancer screening program. The program comes “up short in terms of the cancer detection rate even though the rate of annual screening coverage achieved was acceptable.”
Although 60% of the yearly target population in Morocco undergo screening tests, detection rates for cancer measures far below average.
Cancer detection in Morocco may be as low as 1 in 1,000 women. In comparison, screening tests in Europe find approximately 6 in 1,000 and report 5 in 1,000 in the US. The disparity leads the research center to believe many cases of breast cancer in Morocco go undetected.
Another effort by the Ministry of Health to support cancer patients is reducing the prices of some medications. The ministry issues lists of drugs with reduced prices.
While the price reductions do not target mainly cancer medication, they aim to make drugs more available to the public.
The reductions are part of Morocco’s national drug policy, launched in 2013. The plan aims to reduce the prices of drugs used to treat chronic illnesses, including cancer.
Since 2013, the Ministry of Health has been able to reduce the prices of more than 3,600 medications.