by jason brown
A cancer group in French Polynesia has been put to “sleep” because of a lack of community support and funding from government.
Polynesian Cancer Association president André Kaiser said he was “sickened” by the lack of public support.
Only 15 people out of 600 active members turned up to an annual general meeting to elect new office bearers.
“There are office bearers we never saw,” Kaiser told Agence de Tahitienne de Presse.
In past, most of the work got done by a voluntary secretary.
But each day the challenge gets harder. Kaiser set up the Polynesian Cancer Society in 2001 after his wife died.
“There are 500 to 600 new diagnosed cases of cancer each year in the territory, with 250 deaths and 2,500 people who live permanently with the disease,” says Kaiser.
“These figures are enormous.”
Kaiser took a dim view of news that the new government would set up a special cancer center.
“At the level we are at as a national organisation, we are the only one committee which does not receive assistance from the authorities.
“There is no support from local government. There is total indifference.”
Lack of official funding was especially hurtful because societies like his so often end up doing the work of the authorities, he said.
“It is the indifference that kills me. I would like to pass this society into the hands of someone else but there is no one to take the changeover.”
Even though the group is being shut down he said the work would continue for many cancer patients.
Some cancer groups in Tahiti are divided by causes of the disease.
Some say high rates of cancer come from a western lifestyle including too much smoking and drinking.
Other say that France itself has one of the highest rates of smoking and drinking in the world but much lower cancer rates than French Polynesia.
They want government to take a much closer look at the links between cancer and three decades of nuclear testing – including in the atmosphere.