A conference on the 10th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) has opened at the Nelson Mandela Hall of the African Union Commission complex in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The four-day conference, organised by the Forum of African First Ladies Against Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer, in partnership with the Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation and hosted by the First Lady of Ethiopia, Roman Tesfaye, is being held on the theme: “A Decade of Accomplishments, Our Enduring Legacies and the Challenges Ahead”.
It is expected to help galvanise and harmonise efforts to strengthen country-level programmes and initiatives to help in the prevention and control of cancer.
Addressing the conference, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, commended African First Ladies for their hard work and commitment to tackling critical health issues affecting the continent.
He said Africa would never forget the contributions the First Ladies had made and continued to make collectively and individually in their respective countries to find lasting solutions to health issues, adding, “Africa will forever be grateful to you our First Ladies for charting the course to ensure that the continent is free from all diseases that have plagued it.”
Critical health problem
The Prime Minister described cancer as a critical public health problem in Africa killing more people on the continent than HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
He said 30 per cent of all cancer deaths could be avoided when detected early and urged people to give serious attention to their health by undertaking regular check-ups.
Mr Desalegn, therefore, called on African countries to stand firm and join hands to fight cancers which he described as common enemies of humanity, and advised the First Ladies not to rest on their oars but work round the clock and intensify their campaign, by engaging political leaders and development partners, to ensure that cancer patients were attended to.
Africa’s Agenda 2063
For her part, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said the conference was underway at a timely and auspicious moment when Africa had just started the implementation of its long-term development blueprint, Agenda 2063.
She said the continent still suffered the double burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases, with increase in cancer which is one of the biggest killers in Africa.
Dr Nkosazana said women and girls bore the brunt of the disease, as they lacked access to quality health care and information that were not readily available to many young girls and women, stressing that investing in women’s health, in particular their rights to access quality health care, prevention and affordable treatment, was central to Africa’s development.
An Adviser for Women and Child Health, Professor Marleen Temmerman, said the prevalence of cervical cancer in Africa was high, noting that one woman died of cervical cancer every two minutes and most of them were in Africa.
Prof. Marleen advised countries to expand and promote education and awareness of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines to girls before they were sexually active.
For his part, the Regional Advisor on cancer control at the WHO African Region, Dr Jean Marie Dangou, said an estimated 41.2 million new cases of cancer and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths occurred globally.
He said developing countries were more badly affected by cancer-related deaths which, however, could be prevented with appropriate interventions.
He said the high level of the cancer burden on the African continent was likely to increase with death increasing by 70 per cent by 2030.
The Co-Founder and Director-General of the Forum of African First Ladies Against Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer, Princess Nikky Onyeri of Nigeria, expressed her appreciation to the AU for putting issues of cancer on the African agenda.
The conference brought together members of African Parliaments, heads of state, African First Ladies, leaders of cancer institutes, researchers, United Nations agencies, among others.
The conference will help galvanise and harmonise efforts to strengthen country-level programmes and initiatives to end cancer.