Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
The federal government has said that despite being preventable and curable, cervical cancer has remained the second most common cancer among women with the second highest death rate in Nigeria.
The minister of health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who made this disclosure during the official launch of the global strategy for the elimination of the cancer of the uterine cervix in Abuja said, cancer is currently responsible for about 72,000 global deaths annually.
While attributing the deaths to the absence of cervical screenings and treatment centers in the country, the minister said that the ministry of Health recognized the role of prevention strategies in the elimination of cervical cancer, which informed its decision to collaborate with donor agencies to stem the tide.
The minister who reaffirmed the commitment of the federal government to address the challenges disclosed that the government in its bid achieve the 90:70:90 targets launched the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix.
He said, ‘’in line with the targets of 90% Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccination coverage, 70% screening coverage and 90% access to treatment for cervical cancer and palliative care (90:70:90), some key steps have been taken, which include the development and launch of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021).
‘’Review of the level of implementation of this Strategic Plan in June 2020 by the National Stakeholders Forum on cervical cancer prevention; constitution of a National Technical Working Group to ensure effective implementation of the Strategic Plan; and inauguration of the Nigeria National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022) on 13th October, 2020. The National Technical Working Group has a subcommittee on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control, working to actualise the set objectives.
‘’The Federal Ministry of Health recognizes the role of prevention strategies in the elimination of cervical cancer, which informed our collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to implement a UNITAID-funded Secondary Prevention of Cervical Cancer project with awareness, screening and “see and treat” precancerous lesions of 430,000 women in Kaduna, Lagos and Rivers states in the pilot phase.
‘’This programme has kicked off with training of different categories of health care workers, to provide the required workforce in the 3 (three) states.
‘’In preparation for replicating the aforementioned programme nationwide and also to standardise the practice, we developed a National Training Manual, Data tools, and Job aids to provide a critical mass of National Human Capacity for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer in Nigeria. These documents and tools were launched during the commemoration of the 2020 International Cancer Week last month’’.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr Faisal Shuaib in his welcome address said the HPV vaccine would be introduced into the routine vaccine in 2021.
While revealing that he was excited to be a witness of the historic launch, Dr Shuaib called on traditional rulers to speak to the people to accept the vaccine adding that it will save the lives of women in Nigeria.
‘’Painfully, cervical cancer takes away the lives of women at a time that they are needed most in our communities, because of the lack or absence of cervical screenings and treatment.”
“I am excited to be witnessing this historic moment of the formal launch of the Global Strategy for Elimination of Cervical Cancer a great opportunity to save women and girls from this preventable cancer of public health concern.
‘’Cancer account for more deaths than malaria and other kinds of disease conditions but it is preventable.
‘’HPV vaccine can prevent the deaths of women; the vaccine will not only improve the health of women but will also help boost the economy of Nigeria. The HPV vaccine will be introduced into the routine vaccine in 2021’’, Dr Shuaib added.
He further encourage all stakeholders to work together to ensure the attainment of the WHO cancer target.
On its part, the World Health Organization had at the launch of the strategic plan for the elimination of cervical cancer said that the broad use of vaccines, new tests and treatments could save five million lives by 2050.
“Eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, but we now have the cost-effective, evidence-based tools to make that dream a reality,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
More than half a million new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed around the world each year, hundreds of thousands of women die from the disease, and the WHO warns will rise significantly in the years to come without action.
The global health body said, the launch was huge milestone adding that for the first time the world has agreed to eliminate the only cancer we can prevent with a vaccine, and the only cancer which is curable if detected early.