OVER 50 per cent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the country succumb to the disease making it one of the highest death rates, attributed to the sickness, in East Africa. The percentage translates the fact that 3400 victims pass away out of 6200 who are diagnosed mainly due to delays in seeking medical attention for timely services.
The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, said that the situation has made Tanzania to be one of the leaders in cervical cancer deaths in East Africa and in the world. Dr Mwinyi presented the position as he was launching the Cervical Cancer Screening and Preventive Therapy which will be undertaken by the Reproductive Health Programme.
The four-year programme funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be implemented by Maries Stopes Tanzania (MST), Population Services International (PSI) and Tanzania's Planned Parenthood Association (UMATI). According to Dr Mwinyi, the disease is common among Tanzanian women between 15 and 44 years of age diagnosed with cancer and that his Ministry has already developed the National Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy 2011-2015 and service delivery guidelines to deal with the problem.
The Reproductive Health Programme Manager, Dr Jeremiah Makula, said more than 10 million women over 15 years of age in Tanzania are at risk of contracting cervical cancer, adding that more efforts are needed by the government and other stakeholders since the disease is preventable.
According to him, apart from Tanzania which will implement the programme in 14 regions, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda will also benefit from services. The four countries have many women who currently have no access to cervical cancer prevention services and lack adequate diagnostic and treatment facilities.
Dr Makula cited lack of trained health providers, low coverage of screening services and lack of awareness on the disease as some of the contributing factors hindering smooth provision of services to the victims. The project, he said, will focus on integration of cervical cancer screening into existing family planning and reproductive health service delivery channels and also focus on referrals for preventative therapy and higher level care through collaboration within and outside partnership.
He said they expect easier access to screening to over 414,000 women using 210 sites with trained health providers during implementation of the project. Speaking on behalf of partners, the Marie Stoppes Country Director Ms Ulla Muller said the main challenge facing most women is low awareness about the disease and stigma from the community.
She said her organization and other implementing partners are determined to make sure many women countrywide are reached in order to mitigate effects of the disease.