Malawi First Lady Madame Dr. Gertrude Mutharika, says the establishment of facilities like the National Cervical Cancer Control Programme, has helped in scaling up screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions in the country.

Madame Dr. Mutharika made the remarks 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 on the fight 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,” Dr. Mutharika said.

On personal initiatives as Ambassador of Safe Motherhood, the First Lady told the meeting that she has been championing mobilization of all women of reproductive age to undergo cervical and breast cancer screenings at nearest health facilities in their respective communities.

Some of the mobilization approaches include public awareness drives 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 screenings,” she said, adding that Malawi is in the process of constructing a national cancer centre in the nation’s capital city, Lilongwe.

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 cancer care, establishment of special departments and sections under the Ministry of Health, to 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 the Breast Cancer Foundation, and Director General of the African First Ladies against Cancer initiative.

“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.”

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