A group of civil society organisations known as CSO’s Coalition Against Cervical Cancer (CCACC), has urged Federal and State governments to adopt the compulsory vaccination and treatment of women and girls against cervical cancer.
This is contained in a statement by the group while adopting the resolution by Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) that declared cervical cancer as a public health problem.
It further urged the government to implement a national action in Nigeria against cervical cancer through Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV), cervical screening and treatment for all women and girls.
Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, Wife of the Governor of Kebbi State and Founder, Medicaid Cancer Foundation, and Co-chair of CCACC lamented that except Nigeria, no fewer than 12 African countries have adopted the HPV vaccine into their routine immunization.
“At least 12 African countries have introduced the HPV vaccine into their routine immunization programme, Nigeria is yet to do this,” Bagudu said.
“This can be possible if all states and the federal government match their promises with action. The future of Nigerian girls and women will be bleak if we do not protect them against cervical cancer.”
Ifeoma Okoye, President of Breast Without Spots and radiologist at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital and Co-chair of CCACC stated that cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Nigeria as it takes the lives of over 26 women in a day.
Okoye added that annual mortality from cervical cancer is more than 10, 403 according to the WHO.
“We can protect our women and girls if this vaccine is included in Nigeria’s national routine immunization,” Okoye stated.
Another Co-Chair of the CCACC, Amina Bello, wife of the Niger State governor, and member of the WHO Expert on Elimination of Cervical Cancer said the group was ready to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure that Nigerian women and children are protected against cervical cancer.
“CCACC now stand ready to work in partnership with Federal Ministry of Health, state governments, national stakeholders, GAVI, UICC and corporate organizations to ensure every single girl and woman in Nigeria is protected against cervical cancer,” the statement read.
Runcie Chidebe, Executive Director, Project PINK BLUE and Co-chair of CCACC said ‘in Nigeria, over 70 per cent of cervical cancer patients are diagnosed at an incurable stage of IV, when only end-of-life care can be given’.
Chidebe said considering the donated funds by businesses and philanthropists for the construction of COIVD-19 isolation centres across Nigeria, he believed that Nigerians could invest in HPV vaccination in Nigeria.
“If Nigerian businesses and philanthropists can rally around Nigerians and raise billions of dollars during COVID19 to build isolations across the country, I strongly believe that Nigerians can take responsibility and make an investment in HPV vaccination for girls. Cervical cancer is a public health issue and should not be seen as a cancer issue alone, it is also a reproductive health issue” he noted.
The statement further stated that in 2018, an estimated 119,92 cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed across the globe and over one-third of the cases occurred in Sub-Saharan African despite the region representing only 14 per cent of the world female population.
Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-related disease says WHO which it explains that is usually sexually transmitted.
WHO fact sheet on Human papillomavirus (HPV) states that the virus is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives and some may be repeatedly infected.
According to the WHO, approximately 311 000 women died from cervical cancer while more than 85% of the deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries; which Nigeria is among.