Durban is planning to become the first city in the country to set up its own environmental cancer surveillance unit. The move coincides with a national process to declare cancer a reportable disease and improve data collection on the disease, which kills or disfigures several thousand South Africans every year. Ten years ago The Mercury uncovered evidence of potentially high cancer rates in children in Durban's southern industrial area. Official figures suggest that at least 50 000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed around the country every year, although these statistics are recognised as an underestimation of the true picture. The aim of the new surveillance unit (or registry) is to monitor the number and different types of cancer cases in the Durban area by gathering accurate information on where, how and why the disease occurs, and the extent to which air pollution and other environmental risks might add to the cancer burden. Siva Chetty, the deputy head of pollution control for the eThekwini Health Department, said the plan was to start collecting information on cancer cases in Durban by next year.
World Health Day, on 7 April, marks the founding of the World Health Organization and is an opportunity to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year. In 2008, World Health Day focuses on the need to protect health from the adverse effects of climate change.