Prof. Anil D’Cruz presided during two unique years in UICC’s history, as the world was gripped by a global pandemic, in-person meetings were cancelled and the cancer community showed extraordinary courage and resilience.
The last two and half years have been incredibly challenging for almost everyone. People living and diagnosed with cancer, their families, caregivers, s advocates, civil society organisations and the wider cancer community in general have had to soldier on through lockdowns, travel restrictions, often severe funding shortfalls and, most importantly, a shift in global focus on COVID-19. Their extraordinary resilience was inspiring but the silver lining was their ability to innovate and stay afloat with impactful contributions in an incredibly difficult situation.
While the pandemic meant that I had very few occasions to meet in-person with UICC member organisations, partners, Board Members and staff during my two-year tenure, I have been equally humbled and impressed by the energy and collaborative spirit a exhibited by all in an attempt to support those affected by cancer and ensure that cancer is not forgotten as a global health priority.
The UICC team in Geneva also rose to the occasion, maintaining constant communication with its members to respond to their needs through online engagement, continuing to provide training, expertise, knowledge sharing and specific learning opportunities to address ongoing challenges faced by the cancer community, as well as new and unique demands arising from the pandemic. The Membership Support Fund was one such initiative that allowed member organisations, particularly from low-income settings, to maintain their membership despite the severe financial impact of COVID-19.
As I look back on the two years of my presidency, I realise how fearful and paralysed we might have been by the disruptions to the delivery of cancer services, which resulted in delays in consultations and late diagnosis, leading to higher cancer mortality. While the last two years have been tough, however, it is important to recognise that we also had several occasions to celebrate, COVID-19 notwithstanding.
UICC ended the remarkably successful “I Am and I Will campaign” for World Cancer Day in 2021 and launched this year in 2022 the new three-year campaign to “Close the care gap”. The theme resonated widely within the cancer community and beyond, prompted calls for action and resolutions by health ministries around the world. This aligns with not only a renewed global focus on health, but a growing recognition of the inequities in health care provision that the cancer community has long focused on and which the pandemic starkly exposed.
We also saw the launch of UICC’s five-year Breast Cancer Programme, the implementation of WHO’s Global Strategy to eliminate cervical cancer and UICC’s work with the SUCCESS project, the further development of UICC’s Virtual Dialogues to support and unite the cancer community through successive waves of COVID-19.