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Ethiopia's First Lady Champions the Battle against Cancer

Lulit Gebre  07-25-16

At the initiative of First Lady Roman Tesfaye, the 10th Stop Cervical, Breast & Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA conference) is being held in Addis Ababa from July 24-27 2016.

It is a high-profile gathering of speakers of African Parliaments, heads of State and Government of the African Union member states, African First Ladies, African Ministers of Health, leaders of organizations and institutions to deliberate upon and to promote activities.

Indeed, it is a crucial event to bolster the effort of scientists and researchers, health professionals, philanthropists, civil society groups, individuals from the private sector as well as cancer survivors from all over the world to stop Cervical, Breast & Prostate      Cancer.

With more than 5000 distinguished delegates and speakers from Africa and across the world, the conference is the largest gathering of international stakeholders and specialists in the field of cancer prevention and control in the African Continent.

The conference is intended to provide a strategic guidance based on concrete lessons learned in the field of cancer prevention and control over the past decade. It will be galvanizing and harmonizing efforts to strengthen country level programmes and initiatives to end cancer.

With large number of cancer research centers and hospital as well as medical technology developers attending and exhibiting their work, it is indeed a great opportunity for knowledge exchange and highlighting latest technological and pharmaceutical advancements and researches in the field.

It was First Lady Roman Tesfaye who initiated the idea of holding a Conference on Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Addis Ababa. Indeed, the first lady has been steadily working on the issue for over three years now.

Earlier this year, the First Lady held a meeting with the African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to mobilize support for the idea. She briefed her advocacy initiatives to combat cancer and highlighted the challenges and the critical importance of holding such a conference in Addis Ababa during the Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on women's rights.

Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma welcomed the initiatives, commended her for championing the cause, and threw her weight behind the plan to hold the conference. She underlined:

"I'm very pleased to see First Ladies embarking on such huge and challenging initiatives. You have all our support," the chairperson said,

Indeed, the First Lady understands the challenge posed by cancer and has been taking concrete steps to control the spread of the disease. She argues that cancer is no longer a problem of the developed world alone. And the governments of African countries need to heavily invest in making cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment services available for their population.

Recently, she noted that Black Lion Hospital, Ethiopia's only advanced cancer treatment center, is incapable to give the necessary treatment for the 64,000 cancer cases annually. According to the First Lady, the Ethiopian government has given a serious consideration for the challenge.

Ethiopia have established the National Cancer Committee and launched the National Cancer Control Plan with the intent of availing cervical cancer screening and treatment services across the country. Moreover, the country is also in the process of establishing five advanced specialized cancer treatment and research hospitals outside Addis Ababa. 

The government has also established a National Cancer Committee since February 2014. The National Cancer Committee is co-chaired by First Lady Roman Tesfaye and Minister of Health.

Ethiopia is offering cervical cancer screening and treatment services in all medical centers to control the disease at pre-cancer level. Mobile health centers will also be established across the country to raise public awareness on the disease and to provide free cancer-diagnosis services.

Indeed, First Lady Roman Tesfaye stresses:

My country took the challenges posed by the growing burden of cancer very seriously and started taking concrete measures under a harmonised national framework led by our Federal Ministry of Health.

The establishment of the National Cancer Committee, the launching of our National Cancer Control Plan as well as our achievement in making cervical cancer screening and treatment services available in all woreda health centres in the country are among the concrete steps we have taken.

We are also in the process of establishing five advanced specialised cancer treatment and research hospitals outside Addis Ababa.

The First Lady is championing the conference with the sincere beliefe that it will help improve the lot of millions.

As First Lady Roman Tesfaye pointed out in her invitation statement to the delegates of the Conference; "this conference is a platform where a wider range of stakeholders actively working in cancer prevention and control will come together to reflect on the success Africa achieved and the challenges faced in the prevention and control of   cervical, breast and prostate cancer over the past decade."

Let us join the effort of mobilizing global support and funding for cervical, breast and prostate cancer prevention and control in Africa. It is indeed a proven path towards making a meaningful contribution to saving lives and reviving the hopes of millions of women and men who are in a daunting battle with this disease.


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