Intensify cancer fight: First Lady

The Sunday Mail

Debra Matabvu

Zimbabwe will double efforts to empower communities that are lagging behind in health services and knowledge needed to fight diseases such as cancer, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa said yesterday.

Government has already stepped up efforts to reduce cancer fatalities. In a speech read on her behalf by Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Mary Mliswa-Chikoka at the Zviratidzo Zvavapostori Church Conference in Chegutu yesterday, the First Lady said the need to double efforts in fighting cancer cannot be overemphasised considering rising fatalities.

“As vice president of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development, I want to ensure that everybody has adequate knowledge and ensure that I visit areas that are lagging behind in terms of health,” she said.

“Zimbabwe is among the top ten countries in the world with people affected by cancer. According to statistics, 3 000 people are treated for cancer at our local hospitals, with 1 500 deaths recorded yearly.

“The high number of deaths has been attributed to late detection of the disease. Measures such as immunisation, screening and public education and awareness have for many years not been prioritised. This has led to Zimbabwe being among the top ten countries with people affected by cancer.”

However, efforts have been stepped up to fight the disease through public education and awareness, including the immunisation programme for young girls against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which started in May last year in all the country’s ten provinces.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that sometimes leads to cancer. Government also intends to strengthen the Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid plus Camera (VIAC) programme — which involves examining the opening of the womb, or the cervix, for changes that might lead to cancer — that is currently being done in all hospitals.

The First Lady is also pushing for affordable treatment.

“Following my visit in some areas in Kariba, I realised that there are many people that are still being affected by bilharzia, which is very worrying. I later learnt that bilharzia is a catalyst and a breeding ground for bladder cancer,” she said.

The Angel of Hope Foundation patron, who is also the country’s Health and Child Care Ambassador, has been going around Zimbabwe raising awareness on the need for women to be screened for cervical cancer on time.

Yesterday, multitudes of Chegutu residents were screened for cervical, breast and prostate cancer from the Angel of Hope Foundation’s mobile clinic.

Speaking at the same occasion, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said most cancer deaths were avoidable.

He also apprised people of the First Lady’s inheritance programme that is currently being implemented countrywide.

“Once detected early, cervical cancer can be treated. I am reliably told that the early stages of cancer can be treated, leaving one to lead a normal and cancer-free life,” he said.

The event was also attended by Member of Parliament for Chegutu West Dexter Nduna, senators and other senior Government officials.