First Lady Gertrude Mutharika says the establishment of facilities like the National Cervical Cancer Control Programme has helped in scaling up screening and treatment of precancerous lesions in Malawi.
She made the remarks on Monday at The Westin Grand Central Hotel in New York during the 6th United Nations General Assembly (Unga) Forum of African First Ladies and Spouses against Cancers.
“The establishment of the programme has ensured the implementation of access to medicines, diagnostics and treatment.
“Currently, there are over 150 sites for screening and 60 health facilities that are providing treatment services for cervical cancer across the country,” she said.
On personal initiatives as ambassador of safe motherhood, the First Lady told the meeting that she has been championing mobilising all women of reproductive age to undergo screening at nearest health facilities.
Some of the mobilisation approaches include public awareness through partnership with the media, UN agencies and local leaders.
“In August 2015, I launched a Stop Cervical Cancer campaign which resulted in more women seeking cervical cancer screening,” she said adding that Malawi is in the process of constructing a national cancer centre.
During the meeting, the First Ladies called for specific global commitments in improving the delivery of quality health care and treatment to all forms of cancer affecting women and the rest of the population in Africa.
Increasing health financing for universal treatment and care of cancer, establishments of special departments and sections under the Ministry of Health to oversee and deal with cancer related issues and rolling out vaccines for cancer emerged as key and immediate commitments for implementation.
“Bold leadership is needed for African presidents in financing health care by increasing budgetary allocation to the health sector,” said Princess Nikky Onyeri of Breast Cancer Foundation and Director General of the African First Ladies against Cancer.
“There is also a need of making health insurance mandatory. Why should people be obsessed insuring things like cars but not their health?” Onyeri wondered.
The meeting in New York attracted participation of four First Ladies from Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia and Ghana with South African and Nigerian First Ladies represented by senior government officials.
The meeting was held under the theme “Looking forward to a future without cancers: Implementation of access to medicines, diagnostics and treatment”.