Alarm over high cervical cancer deaths
The government has raised concern over the low uptake of cancer screening in Kenya.
Ministry of Health Acting Director General Dr Patrick Amoth said that across the continent, cervical cancer is still a significant public health challenge, with many women succumbing every year.
Amoth said the burden is particularly heavy where access to quality healthcare services is often limited, and awareness about cervical cancer prevention is insufficient.
“I know in Kenya we have a long ground to cover in terms of screening because we are at 38 per cent. Too many women are diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer, where treatment options are limited, and survival rates are low. It is imperative that we embrace the 90-70-90 strategy and work tirelessly towards its realisation,” said Amoth.
He was speaking yesterday when he presided over the opening session of African Cervical Health Alliance (ACHA) training for civil society organisations in Nairobi, with 16 countries in attendance.
Amoth underscored the role of such forum saying it is an opportunity to identify existing gaps and deliberate on critical interventions.
“It is important we have these kinds of discussions so that we can be able to see what interventions work and the challenges we have so that we can make an impact…we cannot just sit back and watch women not being able to achieve their full potential, we have the tools, we have the technology to eliminate cervical cancer,” he stated.
He said the Ministry of Health is committed to addressing the heavy burden that cervical cancer imposes on the people, adding that Kenya has been at the forefront of championing cervical health, starting from the pilot of the (Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in 2013, the implementation of the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017 – 2022, and the current strategy 2023 – 2027.
Amoth said Kenya implemented comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control programs, including vaccination, screening, and treatment initiatives. “Through targeted vaccination campaigns, we have reached thousands of girls, providing them with protection against HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer. Additionally, we have expanded access to cervical cancer screening services, ensuring that women across the country have the opportunity to detect precancerous lesions early and receive timely treatment,” he said.
He, however, said eliminating cervical cancer requires more than just medical interventions noting that efforts must focus on all ways to reach even more women and girls with lifesaving interventions.
This, he explained, requires concerted effort from all stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations, healthcare providers, and the international community.
“For this to be a reality, we need to adopt women-centric approaches that prioritise the needs and voices of women and girls, families, and communities. Communities must be empowered with knowledge that equips them to act now and utilise available interventions for cervical cancer prevention, screening, and treatment,” he explained.
Kilele Health Association Executive Director Benda Kithaka said civil society organisations should be equipped to bridge the cancer care gap hence the training to allow them carry out evidence based research to inform decision making.
“The civil society is the direct link to communities so they are better able to know what is happening to be able to bring evidence that can inform decision making. Our job is to ensure that we network and involve the policy makers,” she said.
Kilele has already launched the cancer elimination campaign which seeks to support the Government’s efforts to reach at least four million women and girls by 2027 in Kenya.