US$600m cervical cancer fund to benefit Zim Dr Douglas Mombeshora

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Health Reporter

Zimbabwe is set to benefit from a US$600 million World Health Organisation (WHO) cervical cancer funding programme targeting developing countries disproportionately affected by the disease.

The country is ranked fourth among the states  heavily burdened with cervical cancer globally, with an estimated 3 000 new cases diagnosed each year.

The funding, if granted, will empower the Government to bolster its cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment services.

A WHO team from Geneva led by director for non-communicable diseases Dr Bente Mikkelsen was in the country this week as part of the cervical cancer elimination Initiative mission meant to assess the impact of the disease in three countries.

Besides Zimbabwe, the team also visited Zambia and Sierra Leone.

Speaking before touring various health facilities that offer cervical cancer services in Harare and Mashonaland Central on Sunday, Dr Mikkelsen said the country had to lobby for the release of the funds.

“For the first time ever since we introduced the director general Tedros’ flagship programme on cervical cancer elimination, we have seen partners coming together so there was a pledge of US$600 million.

“This is not money they send to us unfortunately, this is money that we try to trigger from our partners. If we are able to get a succinct list of asks, this is the way we can bring partners together.”

She said the main purpose of the mission was to assess what the country had done towards elimination of cervical cancer as well as take note of the challenges being faced.

According to statistics, more than 70 percent of all women diagnosed with cervical cancer do not survive, making the disease a leading cause of mortality among women in the country. Cervical cancer is however the most preventable and treatable cancer.

Dr Mikkelsen said the country was on the right path in implementing strategies to eliminate the disease.

She, however, stressed the need to increase screening to curb the rise of severe cases of cervical cancer.

“Because if we screen, we can treat it before it develops to a heavy cancer. And to achieve that, we need to integrate it in the HIV services, but not only that, as you do here with the schools for advocacy and awareness, but also into other non-communicable disease programmes,” she added.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said the Government remains committed to eliminating cervical cancer by 2030.

“Zimbabwe’s stance against this preventable disease is bold and multifaceted, ensuring equitable access to primary prevention, screening and early detection, as well as treatment and care.

“Over 200 healthcare facilities across Zimbabwe now offer VIAC screenings, and 60 locations provide HPV tests. These expanded services are empowering women with the tools for early detection,” he said.

However, reaching women in rural Zimbabwe with screening services remains a challenge.

Minister Mombeshora said the Government was also ramping up efforts to increase HPV vaccination rates. Efforts are currently underway to develop an HPV vaccination revitalisation action plan which will ensure that no eligible girl is left behind.

For those diagnosed with cervical cancer, he said the Government was investing in more radiotherapy equipment to offer the most effective treatments.

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