Chatinkha Maternity Care Support Group (Chamaca), who on Sunday conducted a cycling for cancer charity event from Blantyre to Mulanje, have expressed optimism that the battle against cancer can be won.
The group’s chairperson, renowned gynaecologist Dr Frank Taulo, said the hundreds of both professional and amateur cyclists who turned up for the event, which raised K6.5 million from the cycling and K7.6 million from the ‘beard shaving’ exercise afterwards, showed that Malawians are committed to the fight against the disease.
He said: “Yes, I would say that now we believe more. Cancer can be tamed by us all with each helping out in one way or the other.”
Taulo was specifically impressed that all the participants footed their bills, including travel, accommodation and food.
“The turn up was good and it was encouraging that more men showed up in support of the fight against the disease. On a personal level, it was overwhelming to see the calibre of people that showed up, some at the eleventh hour, to cycle for women’s health. Somehow, it left me with the impression that the nation is coming to terms with the fact that everyone counts when it comes to improving public health,” he said.
Apart from some corporate-sponsored cyclists, the event also attracted notable professional cyclists such as Kenneth Chikazunda Banda who travelled from Lilongwe just to participate in the event.
However, the highlight of the event was 31-year-old Elia Jafali, a Kabaza man at Bvumbwe Trading Centre who used his local Humber bicycle for the race which he said, had just heard about the previous day.
He said: “I did not have the full details but I heard it was to do with women’s health. I wanted to participate because I know women’s health challenges, having ferried a lot of women to and from hospital in my community. Besides, I just love cycling.”
He was one of the first to arrive at Mibawa Puma Filling Station in Limbe—the starting point of the race, and made the top 10 to arrive first at Chitakale Roundabout, the scheduled finish line for the race.
He was duly rewarded for his effort when Deputy Minister of Lands Abida Mia, who was guest of honour, presented him with a medal and pledged to buy him a brand new professional cycling bike.
She said: “With more men like him around, I am confident we can change Malawi for the betterment of our women. To me, he is the champion of the entire race today.”
To help raise funds, a company or institution was asked to donate towards the event or sponsor four riders at K500 000 each while registration fee was pegged at K8 000 per individual.
Participants also carried a ‘sponsor-me’ form with which they collected funds from the public.
Spokesperson for the event Rachel Mhango said in a separate interview that the funds raised will enable Chamaca and its partners to increase cancer awareness and screening among rural women nationwide.
Speaking during the event at the boma grounds, Senior Chief Chikumbu encouraged women to go for screening, saying a stitch in time saves nine.
“I am here to dispel the myths about cancer screening. I went for it myself and I want women to know that it is neither painful nor do the hospital people remove the uterus during screening,” she said.
Mulanje District director of health and social services Dr Alinane Kalanga, who also cycled through the entire stretch, said the country can save more lives with increased cancer screening.
She also appealed for more partners to support health workers with capacity building to improve service provision as well as extend existing infrastructures to provide more space.
By June this year, the district had screened 15 426 women, of which 660 were VIA positive, representing 4.3 percent.
According to Kalanga, 435 of those got treated with immediate cryotherapy while 238 had their biopsy taken and were referred to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, Taulo, who had pledged to have his beard shaved through an auction as part of the fundraising drive, kept his promise when, soon after the race, he and other patrons convened at HS Wine House in Namiwawa, Blantyre for the haircuts. The event raised K7.6 million.