VICE President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Health minister, says the government is working on a broader awareness campaign to help combat cancer.
Speaking during a virtual event to commemorate World Cancer Day yesterday, Chiwenga said early detection is the best defence against most cancers that are claiming more and more Zimbabweans annually.
World Cancer Day is commemorated yearly on February 4 and this year’s event was running under the theme ‘‘I am and I will campaign for prevention, detection and treatment of cancer’’.
This comes as the country is also battling to decrease the rising new infections and deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 800 people in the last few weeks.
“It is sad to note that patients beset with immune-suppression are more susceptible to Covid-19 and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of worldwide deaths, only surpassed by Covid-19 which recently doubled the casualty rate.
“According to the Cancer Registry of Zimbabwe in 2016, a total of 2 751 people died of cancer in Zimbabwe; the threat requires humankind to raise awareness of cancer and advocate for its prevention, detection and treatment.
“The prevalence of cancer foregrounded the requirement for nations to set up robust and efficient healthcare systems and the initiatives will improve accessibility to treatment in both urban and outlying areas.
“In order to mitigate the effects of non-communicable diseases, my ministry dedicated a whole directorate to raise awareness, prevent, detect and treat these epidemics,” Chiwenga said.
WHO statistics show that at least 9,6 million people passed away globally due to cancer in 2018 with 70 percent of the fatalities occurring in low and middle-income countries, Zimbabwe included.
With cervical cancer being one of the most common cancers in Zimbabwe and killing thousands of women yearly, Chiwenga said his ministry would be conducting screening programmes right down to district health facilities level.
He said there would be a mass immunisation programme for HPV which will be targeting girls aged between 10 to 14 years to protect them against development of cervical cancer.
“In 2020, 110 686 women were screened for cervical cancer and out of the
5 883 who tested positive,
4 561 were treated which put the treatment rate at 77, 5 percent.
“My ministry is also updating the Zimbabwean Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy to make it mandatory for citizens to be screened for cancer in certain age groups for example, prostate cancer for men aged 40 and above,” he said.
In order to mitigate cancer deaths in Zimbabwe, Chiwenga said they will be working to make radiotherapy treatment available to patients at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo hospitals.
The government is also looking at procuring essential cancer medicines from Nat Pharm to ensure that cancer patients have access to pain management, counselling and support services at all health facilities even in rural areas.
Chiwenga also paid tribute to health workers that are “working tirelessly towards the successful execution of cancer programmes in Zimbabwe”.