Zimbabwe has made significant progress in cervical cancer control and prevention with multi-pronged strategies to control the disease, which affects women of all ages countrywide, Health Ambassador First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
This dovetails with worldwide interventions which have seen January being declared Cervical Cancer Awareness month.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the high mortality rate from cervical cancer globally could be reduced through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early diagnosis, effective screening and treatment.
Amai Mnangagwa has been going around the country with her cancer awareness campaigns that have seen thousands of women undergoing cervical cancer screening.
Through her Angel of Hope foundation, she has also held numerous outreach campaigns using the foundation's mobile bus, tents and makeshift sites to have as many women as possible screened.
In a statement on the cervical cancer awareness month, the First Lady acknowledged that gaps still exist in the treatment programme.
"The treatment component for those with the disease remains unsupported. We need to decentralise the treatment for advanced cancer to all the central hospitals. As Ambassador for Health, I will work closely with the Honourable Minister of Health and Child Care and his team to close this gap and ensure that the drugs and equipment for cancer treatment are availed by central Government," she said.
Amai Mnangagwa, who is passionate about enhancing access to health and better treatment facilities, said the country's cancer strategy was anchored on promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
"As Zimbabwe, we join the rest of the World in commemorating this occasion, noting that cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests for cervical cancer and vaccines to prevent Human Pappiloma Virus (HPV), which is the main cause of cervical cancer are available," she said.
The First Lady said Zimbabwe was among top 10 countries in Africa with a high burden of cervical cancer morbidity and mortality.
"Almost 2 000 women die of cervical cancer annually, according to Zimbabwe Cancer Registry Statistics 2016 Report. Yet not until a few years ago, the country did not have a Cervical Cancer Control and Prevention Programme.
"I am glad to inform the nation that the country since 2016, has now developed a strategy to control and prevent cervical cancer. This programme is based on the following intervention areas; promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation," she said.
As Ambassador for Health, the First Lady has worked closely with the Health ministry to assist them on advocacy and awareness.
"As the patron of Angel of Hope, we have held numerous outreach campaigns using a mobile bus, tents and makeshift sites to have as many women as possible screened for cervical cancer.
"Noting the burden of cervical cancer amongst HIV positive women, we have encouraged screening of women who are on antiretroviral treatment at least once every year.
"I am glad to report that our numbers have gone up in excess of 300 000 women screened against a target of 1,2 million by end of 2021. I am hopeful that we will meet this target if we put our efforts together."
In efforts to fight cervical cancer, the First Lady and the Ministry have partnered WHO, UNFPA, USAID, PSI, PSZ, while various other partners have come on board.
In September last year, the First Lady commended the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe for donating cervical cancer screening machines to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
TruScreen-Ultra cervical cancer screening machines, which were procured by NAC and its partners through funds raised from a golf tournament, resonate well with the First Lady's work on cancer which has seen her traversing the country advising women on the need for screening and early treatment of the disease.
In a move aimed at fighting the silent killer, Amai Mnangagwa last year officially opened an early cervical cancer detection and treatment centre at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.