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World Health Organization

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The statistics section is intended to provide updated facts and figures relevant to cancer in developing countries.  These will address many of the challenges facing developing countries in effectively addressing their growing cancer burdens. 


Poverty – the Grim Reality

This graph depicts the percentage of populations in selected world regions who live on less than two US dollars per day.  Please note that greater than one billion people in the world live on less than one dollar per day and greater than 2.7 billion live on less than 2 dollars per day.

Limited Government Funds for Health Care Expenditure

Health Expenditure Per Capita Per Year

These figures are taken from the 2005 World Development Indicators. These figures have been recently updated and although health care expenditure per capita has increased for all countries in the graph, it still remains less than 100 dollars for the countries depicted as such in this graph.

Overall Lack of Human Resources to Provide Health Care

Disease Burden and Resources

This graph depicts the distribution of health care workers by level of health expenditure and burden of disease in regions of the world as defined by WHO.  The countries with the greatest burden of disease have the lowest proportion of the global health work force and the least total health expenditure.

Physicians and Nurses per 1000 People

The numbers of doctors and nurses per 1000 people are shown for selected countries.  There is great variability in the numbers of doctors and nurses per 1000 people as well as the ratio of doctors to nurses.  Sometimes a country has more doctors than nurses.

Lack of Resources for Managing Cancer

Limitations of Resources for Radiotherapy

There were approximately 2500 radiotherapy centers and 3700 machines for cancer therapy in the developing world in December, 2004.  Approximately 3 million patients in the developing world need radiotherapy, yet the numbers of centers and machines in these countries were sufficient for only 1.85 million patients. Many countries have only one machine for millions of patients in contrast to one machine for 250,000 patients in high income countries.  Over 20 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa have no radiotherapy machines per the International Atomic Energy Agency.  To compound the problem, many existing machines are not being used due to a lack of maintenance of the equipment, expired sources of cobalt, or a lack of radiotherapists or physicists.  And, older cobalt sources require longer times to deliver radiation doses.

Limitations in Resources: Anti-Cancer Drugs

These pie charts illustrate the percentage of anti-cancer drug sales and the percentage of cancer burden.  The USA accounts for 61% of the anti-cancer drug sales in the world, yet only has 18% of the world’s cancer burden.  This is in sharp contrast to the “rest of the world” which is largely comprised of low and middle income countries.  These countries account for 61% of the world’s burden of cancer, yet only account for 5% of anti-cancer drug sales. 

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