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Zimbabwe’s first lady props up support for cervical cancer in Zimbabwe

Harare, Zimbabwe, 28 February – Zimbabwe’s First Lady of Zimbabwe Auxillia Mnangagwa has called for more efforts to raise awareness on the problem of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe to prevent women from dying from cervical cancer.

During her nationwide campaign to raise awareness on cervical cancer Zimbabwe’s first lady encouraged women to be screened and treated early of the disease which is killing many women in the country.  She said women who are found with the cancer should be assisted to get treatment as quickly as possible.

Cervical cancer is the second most frequent cancer among women aged 15 to 49 years in Zimbabwe. According to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Related Cancers in Zimbabwe report (ICO/WHO 2013), all women 15 years and older (accounting for approximately 4.37 million women) are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Current estimates indicate that every year 2,270 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 1,451 die from the disease.

The first lady’s campaign took her to various provinces in Zimbabwe where she visited hospitals and clinics providing the cervical cancer screening through a method known as Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervicography (VIAC). VIAC is a see and treat method that is cost effective and minimises delays and the number of visits between screening and treatment.

In 2010 and 2011, UNFPA supported the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to set up pilot cervical cancer screening sites using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervicography (VIAC) at United Bulawayo Hospitals and Masvingo District Hospital. The main focus of the programme was to increase the population coverage of cervical cancer screening in the public health sector. Using lessons learned and experience from the two pilot sites, the programme has since expanded and to date, 103 screening sites have been established.

UNFPA with the support of the governments of Ireland, Britain and Sweden has supported the MOHCC to set up these screening and treatment centres through the procurement of equipment, medical supplies and, training of health workers. To date about 294 workers have been trained.  Other support has also included supporting the MoHCC to develop guidelines and training tools on screening and treating cervical cancer, development of a nationwide cancer register, among many other things.