As August 2020 marked the start of the World Health Ogranisation’s strategy and path to eliminating cervical cancer, the founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation, MCF, and wife of the Kebbi State governor, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, joined top medical practitioners, corporate bodies and international health managers to applaud the gesture by the member states of World Health Organisation (WHO) for adoption of a resolution for elimination of cervical cancer as a general problem in the society.
Dr. Bagudu, who is also a board member, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and Co-chair of CSOs Coalition Against Cervical Cancer (CCACC), has always expressed her concerns on the urgent need to eliminate cervical cancer. The new strategy, according to her, emphasises on the integrated implementation of three-pillars such as the HPV vaccination, cervical screening and treatment for all women by the year 2030.
Although Nigeria is yet to introduce the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Dr. Zainab said about 12 African countries have already gone far in the introduction of the vaccine into their routine immunization programme. But she is optimistic that the strategy can be achieved if Nigeria matches its promises with action in the public health sector.
The eradication of cervical cancer, which is known to be fourth most common cancer is categorically based on three main pillars, as suggested by member states of WHO. Equipped with study to substantiate how to implement the strategy, it is pertinent to encourage the grassroots on prevention through vaccination, screening and treatment of precancerous lesions and treatment including palliative care for invasive cervical cancer. All the pillars must be implemented collectively, in order to achieve the stated goal.
This development triggered applause from various primary health units, practitioners, organisations and experts in Nigeria and beyond. The adoption of the resolution by member states of the WHO’s Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control: Accelerating the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, calls for national action, for immediate steps vaccines, screenings and treatment for all women in Nigeria.
Be that as it may, women in about 40 countries worldwide risk death through cervical cancer in every 3-5 minutes, hence the adoption of the strategy, alongside other health resolutions as part of the silence procedure launched after the most recent World Health Assembly held virtually earlier in May this year. The development propels resilient gestures of global interest in progressing on an essential public health issue—even amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and poor state of health facilities from across some third world countries.
These procedures form the underpinning of the universal approach’s style to elimination, along with the prompt referral for treatment.
Accordingly, the non-governmental organisations in Nigeria under the umbrella of CCACC are focused on steps needed to be taken to accelerate the action for elimination of the disease through advocacy. It is however, alarming that over 60% of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Nigeria are identified with incurable stages of intravenous therapy at a stage when they are almost dying, according to an executive director of Project Pink Blue, Runchie Chidebe.
He said that if business men and philanthropists can rally around Nigerians and raise billions of dollars as contribution for Coronavirus pandemic, to build isolations across the country, he strongly believes that same can also be applied by taking responsibility and making investment in the HPV vaccination for girls.
The elimination of cervical cancer, according to the health experts is within reach, even though it stands as one of the global greatest public health failures, but through strong action and aligned intervention there is hope that it can be controlled.
It is extremely important for Nigeria to propose actions for immediate riddance of the scourge of cervical cancer, in response to the call. Already, European countries have called on their own scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other partners to draw ways and strategies for all countries in the region to adopt in response to the call by the World Health Organization to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem.
What remains is for the federal ministry of health to partner all conscious bodies, including the CCACC to ensure all steps are being taken to protect women in the country in order to avoid the eleventh hour approach!