The fourth Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference ended in Accra on Tuesday, with the resolve of the participants to mobilise enough resources for the prevention of the disease blamed for maternal mortalities on the continent.
“Our people are aware of cervical cancer and know that it is preventable and when detected early and treated, can be cured,” Mrs Ernestina Naadu, First Lady of Ghana said in a closing speech, which summed up the communiqué adopted by the conference.
The three-day conference on the theme: “Africa unite in action: Mobilising political and financial support to strengthen cervical cancer prevention through integration,” was linked to the African First Ladies and Cervical Cancer project, launched in Cape Town July 20, 2009, during the 3rd Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference.
It was organised by the government of Ghana in collaboration with Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation.
It comprises 12 African First Ladies who are determined to reduce the burden of the disease by raising awareness through education.
The conference resolved to develop a cervical cancer vaccination programme, in Africa.
The participants also committed themselves to build human resource capacity to tackle cervical cancer and its prevention.
“We are here (Accra) because of the thousands of women in Africa who die yearly from cervical cancer,” Mrs Naadu Mills said.
She stressed: “With limited resources, we will have to act early by improving awareness of the disease and strengthening behavioural and lifestyle changes. We will have to overcome the powerful socio-cultural barriers.”
Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, Minister of Health said at a post conference press briefing that the platform helped to facilitate effective strategy implementation through working with other partners in order to reduce stigmatisation of people suffering and living with cervical cancer.
It will also mobilise needed resources for the development of policies, strategies and action plan to fight the disease at the national, regional and international levels.
Dr Kunbuor said: “Now that we have come to the end of a very successful, informative and educative conference, the way forward for Ghana is to intensify and undertake follow-up interventions.”
He listed the national programme of action as primary prevention; early detection and treatment; rehabilitation and support, palliative care and cervical cancer, surveillance and research.
The two major cancers in women in Ghana are cervical and breast cancer and are attributed to lack of awareness of the disease, a low level of screening and early detection.
Worldwide, 274,000 deaths occur annually due to cervical cancer with 80 per cent occurring in the developing countries.
Africa alone contributes 79,000 of the mortality rate and according to WHO studies, 18 per cent of cancer deaths in Ghana are through the disease.
Breast cancer killed 458,000 women worldwide in 2008 with 59 per cent of those deaths in less developed countries.
The cervical cancer forum is campaigning for access to medical resources to protect women in Africa from the fatal disease.
Those who attended the conference included personalities like Mary Robinson; former president of Ireland, First Lady of South Africa and incoming Chairperson, Forum of Africa First Ladies Against Breast and Cervical Cancer, Madam Tobeka Madiba-Zuma and Mrs. Janet Museveni, First lady of Uganda.
Others were Queen Nomsa LaMatsebula, First Lady of Swaziland; Mrs T. Salou, First Lady of Niger; Mrs Thandiwe Banda, First Lady of Zambia; Vice President, National Assembly of Algeria; deputy speakers of parliament from Ghana, Uganda and Malawi; parliamentarians from across Africa; African Ministers’ of Health; Dr Benjamin Kunbour, Minister of Health and Dr Elias Sory, Director General of Ghana Health Service.
The conference discussed topics like: Setting the scene- Burden of cervical cancer in Africa; The role of African First Ladies in cervical cancer prevention: the South African experience and cervical cancer diagnosis, treatment and palliation.
The key objectives of the forum were advocacy to increase awareness of cervical cancer in Africa; mobilisation of resources for the development of policy, strategies and actions to fight cervical cancer at the country, regional and international level; reduction of the stigmatisation of people suffering and living with cervical cancer in Africa and collaboration with global and local partners to confront and fight the disease together.
So far SCCA has increased visibility of cervical cancer in Africa through support from national and international stakeholders: Ministers of Health, advocates and survivors; lobbying of African presidents and governments, parliaments, religious institutions for cultural and policy change including the African Health Agenda and contributing the highest signatories to the Global Call to Stop Cervical Cancer with the First Lady of Uganda and Chairperson of the Forum.
Future activities of the Forum of African First Ladies is to attend key congresses including the Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa conference organised by the Princess Nikky Cancer Foundation; lobby Presidents, heads of state, governments and other First Ladies to include cancer on the World and African Health Agenda; mobilise the international community’s existing and new resources for cancer in Africa; build on partnerships and collaborations with individuals and organisations in Africa, and around the world. To date, small-scale demonstration projects have been conducted in Africa to assess the feasibility of implementing screening and vaccination programmes.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide under the age of 45 years. The main cause of the disease is a virus called Human Pailloma Virus (HPV).
Every woman may be at risk of contracting HPV. HPV is easily transmitted through genital skin contact.