The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm and calling on African countries to take initiatives, including the introduction of the vaccine against the human papillomavirus, to reduce the disease.
This February 4, 2021 is World Cancer Day. This year’s edition marks the culmination of the three-year campaign dubbed “I am and I will”, which aims to dispel the fear surrounding cancer, to better understand this disease and to change behaviors and attitudes.
The African continent is particularly affected by this disease. According to the Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Dr Matshidiso Moeti, over the past 20 years, the number of new cancer cases has more than doubled in the African Region, from 338,000 cases notified in 2002 to around 846,000 cases notified in 2020.
The most recurring cancers are “Breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer and liver cancer. Risk factors associated with cancer include aging and family history, tobacco and alcohol consumption, a diet high in sugar, salt and fat, lack of physical exercise, being overweight and exposure. certain chemicals’, explains Dr. Moeti in his message on the occasion of this day.
In most African countries, communities struggle to access cancer screening, early detection, diagnosis and treatment services. “For example, only 30% of African children with cancer survive the disease, compared to 80% in high-income countries. In addition, difficulties in accessing cancer care are exacerbated during crises such as the current 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) ”, specifies the patron of the WHO for Africa.
Of all the WHO regions, the African Region has the heaviest burden of cervical cancer. To fight this disease, Dr Moeti argues that “The introduction of the vaccine against the human papillomavirus must be intensified in order to prevent cancer of the cervix of the uterus”.
In Cameroon, this vaccine was introduced in the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). However, the free vaccination campaign for 9-year-old girls against cervical cancer in schools across the country has met fierce opposition from part of the population, pushing the authorities to suspend the campaign. However, according to EPI figures, more than 10,000 young girls have already been vaccinated across the country.
On the occasion of this world day in the fight against cancer, the Regional Director of the World Health Organization recalls that «we all have a role to play in reducing the stigma surrounding cancer, contributing to a better understanding of this disease and encouraging early detection and management ”.