Population growth and economic progress are raising life expectancy. However, life-saving treatment such as radiotherapy for people who develop cancer cannot reach all of those in need.

The situation is most acute in countries that lack radiotherapy facilities and trained personnel.

In 2020, over 700 000 people in Africa died of cancer.

Over 70% of the population in Africa does not have access to radiotherapy. This is largely because of the enormous lack of radiation medicine equipment and specialists trained in radiotherapy in the region. 

More than 20 countries in Africa have no radiotherapy services at all. And in those that do, these are usually concentrated in a single location — the capital city — leaving people who live hundreds of kilometres away without a realistic hope of accessing treatment.

For more than six decades, the IAEA has been helping countries fight cancer. 

With a focus on radiotherapy services, the IAEA has provided countries with equipment for diagnostic imaging, for producing nuclear medicine, and for administering radiotherapy to patients.

IAEA experts have also trained medical professionals from across the globe on how to safely and effectively use radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer.

Now the IAEA is intensifying its activities to help bring access to cancer care where it is needed most.

Through its Rays of Hope initiative, the IAEA is building partnerships with governments, international financial institutions and the private sector, to help bridge the gap in radiotherapy facilities to increase access to cancer care and save lives.

Over 70 countries have already signed up to participate in Rays of Hope, and by January 2024, more than 60 million euros were raised in support of the initiative.

In seven countries in Africa, the IAEA has assessed the critical needs for providing access to cancer care, and the construction of radiotherapy facilities has started on multiple sites.

Providing even a single radiotherapy machine in a country has the potential to save many lives and to relieve symptoms where a cure is not possible.

It enables those diagnosed with cancer to receive treatment and undergo rehabilitation within their family and community support system.

In Tanzania, for example, with IAEA's help in providing radiotherapy machines and training, doctors in the northern city of Mwanza no longer have to give cancer patients the devastating news that the life-saving treatment they will need on a regular basis is over 1,200 km away.