The Federal Government Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer in the country, by endorsing the global strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer by the World Health Organization’s (WHO).

It, therefore, stated that in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2030 target for elimination of cervical cancer, it will ensure 90 percent Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccination coverage, 70 percent screening coverage and 90 percent access to treatment for cervical cancer and palliative care (90:70:90).

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, made this known during the lighting up of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) office in Abuja, to commemorate this year’s World Cancer Day, with a focus on cervical cancer.

He said, “Nigeria is one of the countries that endorsed the Global Call to Action on Cervical Cancer in May 2018, which translated to the passage of a resolution calling for the elimination of cervical cancer by 2030 and the adoption of a strategy to deliver on this objective in August 2020.

“The Federal Ministry of Health has taken several steps to actualise the 2030 target, recognising that despite being preventable and curable, cervical cancer is still the second most common cancer among women with the second-highest death rate in Nigeria.

“In line with the targets of 90 percent Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccination coverage, 70 percent screening coverage and 90 percent access to treatment for cervical cancer and palliative care (90:70:90), some key steps have been taken, which include the development and launch of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021); review of the level of implementation of this Strategic Plan in June 2020 by the National Stakeholders Forum on cervical cancer prevention; the constitution of a National Technical Working Group to ensure effective implementation of the Strategic Plan; and the inauguration of the Nigeria National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022) on 13th October 2020. The National Technical Working Group has a subcommittee on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control, working to actualise the set objectives.

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He added, “Furthermore, we are working to ensure wide accessibility and availability of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, through the National Programme on Immunization by the year 2021. This will target our young girls and boys to eliminate the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is known to be responsible for over 70 percent of Cervical Cancer cases.”

In his remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, “My team and I have spent the greater part of our working careers trying to eradicate diseases of public health concern by improving vaccination optic through health education and community engagements in order to control vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Cancer accounts for the high rates of deaths seen among the Nigerian population. It is currently responsible for over 72,000 deaths annually. Cancer accounts for more deaths than malaria, HIV and tuberculosis combined in developing countries. Of all of the forms of cancer in Nigeria, cervical cancer remains the most frequently reported and the leading cause of cancer among women. Yet, cervical cancer is preventable.

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“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Federal Ministry of Health, under the leadership of the honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Senator Olorunibe Mamora, are working closely to introduce routine HPV vaccination into the National Immunisation Schedule by 2021.

“Let me use this opportunity to appeal to traditional and religious leaders who were instrumental in the fight against polio, to extend similar support to enhance reception to HPV vaccines through combating misinformation and rumours relating to vaccination. We are assuring caregivers that vaccination is safe and effective, in line with religious and cultural practices. Your leadership will no doubt strengthen the acceptance of immunisation, thereby contributing to the elimination of cervical cancer.”

The WHO Country Representative (WR) to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, added: “Cervical cancer is one cancer in the world that can be eliminated in this generation. WHO will like to commit and will continue to provide technical support towards achieving the reduction of cervical cancer in our lifetime.”

In his remarks, Dr. Owens Wiwa of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), represented by Dr. Olufunke Fasawe, said: “The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is supporting the NPHCDA on its plan to introduce the HPV Vaccine. As part of seven countries, UNITAID has funded CHAI to support the provision of Novtina Cervical Cancer screening and high-quality tests for pre-cancerous sessions.

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“Our target is to screen 400,000 women over the next 18 months. We will continue to support the government in its efforts to eliminate this cancer and improve the health outcomes of our women and girls. CHAI joins other partners to congratulate the Nigerian government as we join other countries and the WHO as we launch the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer.”

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