AN ITALIAN charity could save millions of lives in Zimbabwe, where most cases of cervical cancer go undetected until they are too far advanced to treat.
Lifeline Dolomites is set to screen and offer early treatment of carcinoma of the cervix and expects to reach three million women mainly in rural areas.
The charity is offering a major intervention that will boost Zimbabwe’s health sector’s capacity to deliver critical life-saving care to patients.
About half-a-million women worldwide are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, with 250 000 deaths caused by the disease in developing countries, which lack the infrastructure and resources to implement routine screening.
The HIV/Aids epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa may have contributed to the high number of cervical cancer deaths: women infected with HIV are thought to be three to five times more likely to develop cervical lesions that can become cancerous.
Lifeline Dolomites is looking at launching a programme for screening and early treatment of carcinoma of the cervix in Mashonaland West and Harare provinces.
Speaking after a Harare briefing with Stefano Moscatelli, the Italian Ambassador to Zimbabwe in Harare recently, Dr Carlo Sagnolli, Lifeline Dolomite coordinator in Zimbabwe said over the next three years, they will roll out the carcinoma of the cervix screening and early treatment programme in Mashonaland West and Harare provinces.
“This project has a particular focus on rural women and it will also see the introduction of the Pap smear testing on a large scale for the first time in Zimbabwe,” Sagnolli said.
“Access to early Pap smear testing will improve the effectiveness of the programme by reducing the risk of overlooking potential early cancer lesions.”
Under the programme, Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital will be the main training and implementing institution while Kadoma General Hospital and Karoi District Hospital will be second tier programme implementers.
Other participating institutions include the Giovanni Spagnolli Centre for the Promotion of Women in Harare, the Kariba-Siavonga and Chegutu District Hospitals as well as St. Rupert’s and Chidamoyo Mission Hospitals.
In the next few months, Lifeline Dolomite will also establish the first specialist emergency cardiology unit in Zimbabwe which will be housed in the intensive care unit at Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital.
Commenting on the development, Spagnolli said: “Coronary artery pathologies which cause Ischaemic Myocardic diseases are on the rise all over the world and are causing many unnecessary deaths in Zimbabwe. The unit will contribute to better health delivery in Zimbabwe because up to now patients had to travel all the way to South Africa for treatment.”
Both health sector initiatives will facilitate skills and technology transfer between Italy and Zimbabwe as local general medical officers, state- registered nurses and midwives will receive training in Italy.
“The 108 Zimbabwean medical personnel who will receive the training will not only become the implementing agents for these new programmes but will also train colleagues here in Zimbabwe to further strengthen capacity of the local health sector in a sustainable manner,” said Spagnolli.
Moscatelli said: “The cooperation policy of the Italian government on Zimbabwe directs the embassy to play a facilitation role in all cooperation initiatives that include economic, cultural and humanitarian efforts in a multi-sectoral approach that involves central government, local government, humanitarian agencies, the private sector and individual citizens.”