Zimbabwe: First Lady Partners Zambian Oncologists

2 November 2021

ZIMBABWE has, courtesy of the country's Health Ambassador First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, partnered with Zambia in the fight against cancer as part of her drive to transform healthcare quality and allow equitable access for all.

The partnership will see collaborative efforts between Zimbabwean oncologists and their Zambian counterparts.

Amai Mnangagwa has traversed the length and breadth of the country with her Angel of Hope Foundation's mobile clinic raising awareness on non-communicable diseases as well as promoting early screening, diagnosis and treatment.

She has been to remote areas as part of her mission to ensure health for all.

Charmed by Amai Mnangagwa's hard work, Zambia's Medland Hospital chief executive Dr Mohamed El Sahili approached the First Lady's office and expressed willingness to work with her in the fight against cancer in Zimbabwe.

A hands-on person, the First Lady invited Dr Sahili to Zimbabwe and without wasting any time, the partnership saw the two countries holding their first cancer conference in Harare yesterday.

Dr Sahili was in attendance and shared notes with Zimbabwe's oncologists and other health experts drawn from the country's provinces.

The conference saw other participants from Nigeria, Beirut and Lebanon who are in the health sector joining virtually.

Dr Sahili said collaborative health care is a current trend to address challenges and improve the social sustainability of healthcare systems.

He said news of Amai Mnangagwa's hard work had reached far and wide.

"Medland Hospital is very active when it comes to fighting cancer," he said.

"Recently we had our breast cancer conference. We then recognised the work being done by the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Her Excellency Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is very active when it comes to health care issues.

"She is also the Vice President of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) and the country's health ambassador. We decided to partner her and have the cancer conference Zimbabwe edition.

"We shared our willingness to work hand-in-hand with her office in order to try and have exchange programmes with Zimbabwean health experts and probably implement a project that will help us make health care accessible and affordable to everyone."

Dr Sahili said redesigning health care entailed working together and also that there was need for more robust evaluation of innovative health technologies to determine what really works.

He thanked the First Lady for accepting their initiative and said the partnership will see the implementation of several health projects for the benefit of everyone.

"The First Lady accepted our initiative and warmly welcomed us to Zimbabwe for our Zimbabwe-Zambia cancer conference first edition," he said.

"We look forward to work under the umbrella of her office and in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Child Care so that we can make our dream come true of providing health care to everyone.

"We are going to see more of these conferences in the future. We are going to walk the talk."

Dr Sahili shared notes on digital health innovations, enhanced research, capacitation and redesigning health care systems.

The First Lady said she facilitated the Zimbabwe-Zambia collaboration with the aim of strengthening the fight against cancer in the country and the continent at large.

She spoke on the need for collaborative efforts in reducing the cancer burden.

"It is indeed a pleasure to welcome Dr Mohamed El Sahili who has visited Zimbabwe from Zambia with the aim of initiating a dialogue on cancer in order to help with the exchange of ideas between the two countries on improving the cancer situation in the respective countries," she said.

"Dr Sahili approached my office with the aim of discussing the cancer situation in our continent and how we can raise awareness among the general populace for early detection and treatment. Non-communicable diseases, including cancer, are becoming rampant and are now at epidemic levels.

"As the Vice President of OAFLAD, this is a cause for major concern and there is need for programmes which work at prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of cancer on the continent. This requires for trained health experts to join forces in the fight against cancer.

"The Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe appointed me the Ambassador for Health and Child Care, therefore, I have decided for Dr Sahili to meet with our local health experts on cancer issues that are affecting our people.

"It is my sincere hope and appreciation that this shall be a fruitful coordination that will pave way in the fight against cancer."

National Aids Council chief executive Dr Bernard Madzima said the partnership will pave way for improved cancer service provision to low resourced areas.

He said the efforts that the First Lady has put in addressing health issues were indeed timely and without a doubt something that the country needed.

"Zimbabwe has formed a collaboration with Medland Hospital in Zambia," said Dr Madzima.

"This was made possible by the First Lady, our mother. We are working on a project to try and improve cancer services in Zimbabwe by introducing mobile facilities which can go all over across the country.

"We are grateful to Amai for making dialogue with our Zambian counterparts. This was our first conference whereby we have called in our cancer experts from our country's provinces.

"We have heard presentations from Zambia and others who joined virtually. This collaboration will see the introduction of mobile units which will go to the lowest level of health care offering preventive, treatment and rehabilitative services. We are grateful that Amai has afforded the country this opportunity."

Dr Madzima thanked the First Lady for her hard work which has seen Zimbabwe being recognised.

University of Zimbabwe clinical radiation oncologist Dr Ntokozo Ndlovu expressed gratitude for the exchange programme, saying the partnership was beneficial.

"It has been a very good fruitful day," she said.

"We have had information exchanges with our Zambian partners in oncology. We have heard some insights into the work they are doing and the infrastructure they are putting for health in general.

"We really appreciate this collaboration where we can exchange ideas to make sure patients are screened early and treated. We had representatives from Parirenyatwa Hospital Radio Therapy Centre and Mpilo Hospital Radio Therapy Centre which is the second public centrer for cancer treatment.

"We are grateful to our mother, the First Lady, for organising this meeting for us to meet with other experts who gave us another perspective towards health care in general.

"The experts were talking about health care in relation to redesigning the whole way of delivery of health care using innovative ways of reaching out to people, including those in remote areas."

The partnership comes when Zimbabwe is also reaping the benefits of Amai Mnangagwa's partnership with another international organisation, Merck Foundation, in which the country's health experts were offered more than 100 scholarships to enhance proficiency in various disciplines that include under served disciplines and many critical specialities.

This is the first time since Independence in 1980 that a First Lady has led from the front and made interventions to ensure the nation accesses quality health care facilities.

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