Waiting to die: Uganda's untreated cancer patients

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Katie G. Nelson
Al Jazeera English

With his shoulders hunched forward and his hands curled over the curve of the steering wheel, James Isabirye scans a dusty road in southern Uganda for signs of life. The driver at Hospice Jinja is looking for a narrow inlet, somewhere between a neighbourhood shop and a primary school, that his colleague and passenger Esther Apolot is directing him to.

"And you remembered to pack the morphine?" Esther asks. "This patient is very sick."

James takes a hard left turn down a winding footpath carved in the dirt, which grows increasingly narrow until it dead-ends at two crumbling redbrick houses.

"This is it," says Esther. "She's inside."

Covered by a single sheet atop a foam mattress on the concrete floor is 32-year-old Harriet Namuwoya. The mother of seven has abdominal cancer. A watermelon-sized tumour protrudes from her stomach.

"She's in a lot of pain," says Esther. "If it was caught earlier, she would've benefited from radiation."

Harriet Namuwoya and her mother pose for a photo inside their home in the Busoga region of Eastern Uganda. The 32-year-old mother was diagnosed with abdominal cancer last year. Nurses believe her watermelon-sized abdominal tumor would have responded favorably to radiation therapy had the 21-year-old machine remained operational. Uganda’s only external beam radiotherapy machine broke last April and has not been replaced since.  Photo credit: Katie G. Nelson/Al Jazeera English

Harriet Namuwoya and her mother pose for a photo inside their home in the Busoga region of Eastern Uganda. The 32-year-old mother was diagnosed with abdominal cancer last year. Nurses believe her watermelon-sized abdominal tumor would have responded favorably to radiation therapy had the 21-year-old machine remained operational. Uganda’s only external beam radiotherapy machine broke last April and has not been replaced since

Photo credit: Katie G. Nelson/Al Jazeera English

Harriet is not alone. She is one of hundreds of patients dying from treatable cancer in Uganda after the country's only external-beam radiotherapy machine broke last April. It has not been replaced.

Too poor to travel to the nearest machine in Nairobi, Kenya, where treatment and living expenses for the duration of treatment often run upwards of $5,000, Harriet and those like her are simply waiting to die in homes across Uganda.

More photos and stories on Uganda's untreated cancer patients at Al Jazeera English

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2017/03/waiting-die-uganda-untreated-cancer-patients-170306090150882.html