The First Lady Gertrude Mutharika says the construction of a cancer centre currently underway in Lilongwe is a major step in the right direction towards the national fight against different kinds of cancers in Malawi.
Madam Mutharika said this in New York United States of America during the 6th African First Ladies and Spouses Meeting held at Westin Grand Central Hotel on the margins of the 72nd session of the United Nation General Assembly.
The meeting was organised by the Roche Foundation in collaboration with Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation under the theme "Looking forward to a future without cancers: Implementation of access to medicines, diagnostics and Treatment".
The First Lady said cancer is increasingly becoming one the leading causes of illness and death in Malawi with cancer of the cervix toping the list prompting government to establish the National Cervical Cancer Control Programme.
"Let me share with you that Malawi's cancer Treatment Centre is under construction. Malawi will therefore be providing radiotherapy to cancer patients within the country. This will be a remarkable milestone in improving access to services," said Madam Mutharika
She further reported that as First Lady, she has dedicated her time to mobilising women of reproductive age to undergo cancer screening services through mass media campaigns and partnerships with women radio listening clubs.
"Through this approach, I have managed to mobilise women to get cervical cancer screening. Some of these clubs have even gone further to mobilise themselves and have started door to door cancer awareness campaigns which has resulted in more women accessing cancer screening services.
During the meeting, the First Ladies called for specific global commitments in improving the delivery of quality health care and treatment to all forms of cancer affecting women and the rest of the population in Africa.
Increasing health financing for universal treatment and care of cancer, establishments of special departments and sections under the Ministry of Health to oversee to deal with cancer related issues and rolling out vaccines for cancer emerged as key and immediate commitments for implementation.
"Bold leadership is needed for African presidents in financing health care by increasing budgetary allocation to the health sector," said Princess Nikky Onyeri of Breast Cancer Foundation and Director General of this grouping of African First Ladies against Cancer.
"There is also a need of making health insurance mandatory. Why should people be obsessed insuring things like cars but not their health?" Onyeri wondered.
The meeting in New York attracted participation of four First Ladies from Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia and Ghana with South African and Nigerian First Ladies represented by senior government officials.