FOCP intensifies efforts for cervical cancer elimination - GulfToday

FOCP intensifies efforts for cervical cancer elimination


The theme of the forum convened by the FoCP and the United Nations Population Fund is ‘Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer’.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Ruler of Sharjah, said the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) shall continue to advocate and support local to international agenda towards the elimination of cervical cancer.

Sheikha Jawaher, founder and patron of the Sharjah non-profit civic organisation, made the commitment on Wednesday and during her welcome address before a multi-sectoral international delegation virtually attending the two-day “Second Regional Cervical Cancer Forum.”

The theme of the forum convened by the FoCP and the United Nations Population Fund is “Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer.”

The forum, held a week ahead of the annual Feb.4 (Thursday) “World Cancer Day,” gathers individuals from across four continents who have been working together on the fight against the disease. They are hopeful that through civil society-public-private collaborations and above all, determination, the “Global Cervical Cancer Strategy,” passed and adopted by 194 governments at the Nov.17, 2020 World Health Organisation’s (WHO) World Health Assembly, can be achieved, despite disturbances consequent to the raging Novel Corinavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The strategy aims to erase cancer of the cervix three ways by 2030 or nine years from now: 90 per cent vaccination of girls against the various forms of the infectious human papilloma virus (HPV) particularly viruses 16 and 18; 70 per cent screening/tests of women by ages 35 and 45; and 70 per cent treatment of patients.

It is against this backdrop that Sheikha Jawaher vowed FoCP’s steadfast commitment as she also cited the cervical cancer landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean Region consisting of the 22 nations comprising the Arab World.

She said: “As many as 7,500 women die every year of this disease in the Middle East and North Africa, taking away from us a little girl with a dream of a better future, a sister helping look after her family with love and care, or a mother raising her precious family.”

“The staggering number of cervical cancer victims confirms the severity of this disease, and it is imperative that we stand together to continue fighting it in every possible way to ensure raising awareness among individuals about the importance of preventive measures. It is our duty as individuals, institutions and societies to join hands so that all women and young girls stay safe and healthy,” she also said.

Sheikha Jawaher said COVID-19 has forced countries to re-align resources to eliminate it. But even then, this has not deterred cervical cancer advocates worldwide to take action through awareness programmes: “It (has been a) challenging situation which has affected (cervical cancer) patients severely. However, international efforts to combat (the disease) have risen to the occasion. FoCP continues to mobilise efforts, locally as well as globally, to develop sustainable programmes aimed at eliminating cancer.”

In her opening remarks, FoCP-Board of Directors chairperson Sawsan Al Fahoum-Jafar emphasised the positive outcomes of determination. She referred to the decision of the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP) to implement its nationwide anti-HPV inoculation drive in 2019-2020 after the “First Edition of Regional Cervical Forum” in 2018. Out of the targeted 16,590 recipients,13,874 (83 per cent) were immunised.

In her keynote address, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) immediate past president Princess Dina Mired touched on the “Global Cervical Cancer Strategy.” She stressed that its success lies in the hands of governments and global partners: “If and only if they implement (this) in earnest after fixing the flaws in the inefficient fundamentals that currently dog our health systems.”

The first day of the forum had two thematic sessions, one of which was the “2021: Where are we with cervical cancer elimination.” At the session that tackled better healthcare policies, UICC-Special Projects director Dr Julie Torode discussed the success story of Malaysia in implementing a school-based anti-HPV vaccination drive and the launch of a mobile app that gradually but surely removed the angst of women to go for the necessary swab tests.

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