Cervical cancer awareness: Help eradicate the disease that kills 7,500 Arab women yearly


Sharjah - Cervical cancer is taking away from us a little girl with the dream of a better future.


Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Wed 27 Jan 2021, 7:26 PM

Every year, 7,500 women die of cervical cancer in the Middle East and North Africa — a staggering number, considering that vaccination could possibly prevent the disease. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Founder and Patron of Friends Of Cancer Patients (FoCP), has called on everyone to stand together and join the global movement to raise awareness, protect women, and eradicate cervical cancer.

Sheikha Jawaher was among the key international personalities and top government officials who came together on Wednesday for the second edition of the Cervical Cancer Forum. Held virtually, the two-day global event was organised by FoCP in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). More than 35 pioneering actors and global stakeholders from 11 countries took part in the forum.

“(Cervical cancer is) taking away from us a little girl with the dream of a better future, a sister helping look after her family with love and care, or a mother raising her precious family. Therefore, it is our duty as individuals, institutions and societies to join hands in the fight against cervical cancer so that all women and young girls stay safe and healthy,” Sheikha Jawaher said in her opening address.

In the UAE, national preventive strategies and health awareness programmes have been in place for the early detection of cancers, including cervical cancer, said Abdulrahman Al Owais, the UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention,

“Raising awareness about the importance of early screening for cervical cancer, and its vital role in minimising the death rate between females in the UAE is very important and we are focused on it,” Al Owais said as he addressed the forum.

Touching on the UAE’s response, Sawsan Al Fahoum Jafar, chairperson of the Board of Directors of FOCP, said: “Following the first Cervical Cancer Forum hosted in the UAE in 2018, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention had announced a country-wide rollout for the vaccination.

“Accordingly, in the year 2019-20, against a target of 16,590, a total of 13,874 were vaccinated for HPV1, HPV2, and HPV3, providing an extensive 84 per cent coverage. I am confident that the discussions over the next two days will bring us new insights on how to incorporate global best practices in our healthcare policies.”

Another key speaker at the event pointed out that the UAE is one of only two countries in the Arab region that have included the HPV vaccine in the national immunisation programme. The other one is Libya.

Diene Kieta, deputy executive director for programmes at the UNFPA, said: “This forum is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to achieve a life of dignity for all people and calls for reducing by one-third premature deaths from non-communicable diseases. While applauding the success of cervical cancer screening in many high-income countries, we have a responsibility to replicate this progress in all settings, in all countries.

“UNFPA will take the lead on executing the Global Strategy to eliminate Cervical Cancer and is ready to support documenting good practices to inform regional and national policies on prevention, early detection and treatment of cervical cancer in the Arab region.”

Sheikha Jawaher noted that although the healthcare industry had faced challenges in the time of Covid-19, international efforts rose to the occasion and managed to boost awareness campaigns.

“The FoCP continues to mobilise efforts, locally as well as globally, to develop sustainable programmes aimed at eliminating cancer. The first edition of the Cervical Cancer Forum resulted in the launch of the ‘Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer 3X3’.

“We trust that this edition will achieve outcomes that will facilitate and expedite regular examination, treatment and vaccination for those who need them, as well as adopting polices and strategies to deal with the ongoing challenges, helping save the lives of many women and ending the emotional suffering of their families,” Sheikha Jawaher said.

Several talks on the first day of this year’s forum — conducted by some of the world’s top experts on cervical cancer — shed light on how primary healthcare is providing screening, prevention and access to HPV vaccinations amid Covid-19. Other sessions were about ensuring equity and access in cervical cancer care.

The forum will continue tomorrow, with three panel discussions and two keynote addresses, and propose a set of recommendations and a call for action that integrates the pillars of prevention, treatment, palliative care, and social aspects globally and specifically in the Arab region.

Cervical Cancer Forum 2021 is FoCP’s first joint event with the UNFPA, since the two entities signed an MoU in November 2020 to boost collaborative efforts in reducing the burden of cervical cancer on the Arab states.


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