ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 25 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has said Africa has the capacity and resources to contain cancer if the continent unites against the disease.
She said the gains made by the Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) initiative over the last decade, is a demonstration that the battle against the disease can eventually be won.
“I am convinced more than ever that we have all the resources we need to make a radical difference in Africa’s healthcare, and to ensure that cancer does not continue to be the dominant cause of death in the developing world”, said the First Lady.
She spoke at the African Union Commission headquarters in Addis Ababa where the SCCA three-day conference officially kicked off.
“We have the power and the purpose, the wisdom and the will, the ability and the empathy, to make a lasting difference. We can have a continent, where cancer does not cripple us, and a world where we beat cancer,” she said.
The First Lady was confident that Africa can build a stronger and healthier continent where boys and girls, women and men are protected from cancer if the continent exploits all its potential.
The SCCA movement is marking its 10th anniversary. The theme of the conference is: “A Decade of accomplishments, our enduring legacies and challenges ahead.”
The annual SCCA conference, convened under the Forum of African First Ladies Against Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer attracts heads of states, health professionals, policy makers, diplomats, Health Ministers, politicians and researchers from across the world
The conference, which is being attended by nine other First Ladies from Africa was opened by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
It is being hosted by Ethiopian First Lady Mrs Roman Tesfaye who also takes over the SCCA leadership from her Kenyan counterpart.
The First Lady underlined the need for a concerted, cohesive and comprehensive effort to directly combat the staggering increase of cancer deaths in the continent.
She said the disease and associated risks continue to remain unknown to the majority of the African population, thereby posing a real challenge and burden to respective national health interventions.
Giving the example of Kenya and the concerted efforts being made to combat cancer in the country, the First Lady said the government and its health partners have invested huge resources to lower incidences of the disease and improve the lives of cancer patients.
These efforts, she said, also include advocacy work at the highest levels of policy, investment in ground-breaking cancer treatment centres and the recent expansion of the national health insurance outpatient cover to include payment for chemotherapy and radiotherapy both locally and abroad.
“Right now Kenya has rolled out a program that will see adolescent girls across the country get vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV),” said the First Lady.
HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and affects most sexually active men and women
Giving the successes of the SCCA over the past 10 years including the past one year of her leadership, the First Lady said the initiative had raised awareness and further ensured that more girls, women and men have the information and the facilities they need to get tested across the continent
“We have lobbied and raised our voices to highlight cancer as a critical issue for policy makers”, she said.
She called for collective commitment by African leaders and its people to combat the rampant cases of cancer and subsequent premature deaths.
“Today, we have a critical opportunity as leaders, as patriots, as Africans, as citizens and as friends, to collectively commit to combating this disease, step up our individual efforts in cancer prevention and catalyze best practices where we have succeeded,” said the First Lady.
The Prime Minister called on all African First Ladies to intensify the war against cancer in their respective countries because they are closest to the masses and their respective programs (like the Beyond Zero) resonate well with the people.