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Young Kenyan writer, organizer of Earthfest, is felled by cancer

By Rush Perez | 1/29/2014, 6:15 p.m.
Crusading BBC journalist Anne Waithera of Kenya, stricken by cancer, passed away this week at the youthful age of 39.
Anne Waithera of Kenya

Jan. 29, 2014 (GIN) – Crusading BBC journalist Anne Waithera of Kenya, stricken by cancer, passed away this week at the youthful age of 39.

Ms Waithera was the first BBC bilingual - English and Swahili - reporter in Addis Ababa. Prior to working for the BBC, she worked at Royal Media Services’ Citizen TV and Nation Media Group’s Easy FM radio station in Kenya.

BBC Africa editor Solomon Mugera described her as "a brave, well-organized and talented journalist"

As a student at the University of Nairobi, Waithera pursued a degree in agro-ecosystems management and developed a deep passion for environmental protection. This led her to organize the EarthFest Africa Initiative after which she was picked to join a U.N. youth conference in Gwangju, South Korea.

In 2013, she was singled out for outstanding leadership promise and tapped to run a mentorship program in secondary schools.

Her death from cancer highlights Kenya’s dismally high rate of cancer mortality. Seventy to eighty percent of cancer cases are diagnosed in late stages, due to lack of awareness, inadequate diagnostic facilities, lack of treatment facilities and the high cost of treatment.

Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer death for Kenyan women. The current North American standard of care includes surgery followed by carboplatin and paclitaxel. Neither drug is available for Kenyan women.

There are only 4 treatment centers in Kenya and only 4 radiation centers. Researchers at Kenyatta National Hospital in a recent report called for "strategies to improve ovarian cancer awareness and investment in lower level health facilities to promote early diagnosis."

A moment of silence was observed by the BBC Africa staff in London, Nairobi, Dakar, and Abuja.