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VP Chiwenga says COVID-19 vaccine is for free

We publish below Vice President General (Rtd) Dr Constantino G.G. Chiwenga’s speech during World Cancer Day Commemorations in Harare:

“The (COVID-19) pandemic has continued to claim a huge toll of casualties, with tectonic effects on global security. The onset of coronavirus on the continent of Africa was gradual.

“However, the emergence of new strains or the deadly coronavirus accelerated the progression of the second wave at the close of the year 2020 and beginning or year 2021.

Consequently, an upward trend in confirmed cases, active cases and deaths were recorded in Zimbabwe. In response to the growing threat to public health, the government of Zimbabwe forged synergies with friendly states, civil society organisations, strategic partners, corporates and the generality of our Zimbabweans to combat the pandemic.

“We welcome and are very grateful to the Peoples’ Republic of China for their donation of the covid-19 vaccine to Zimbabwe. The landmark gesture will achieve a milestone in combatting the pandemic. Furthermore, the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe embarked on a deliberate programme to acquire more covid-19 vaccines.

“My fellow Zimbabweans, let me also reiterate that the Government of Zimbabwe will rollout covid-19 vaccines tor free, to all our citizens who may wish to be vaccinated. The policy is inspired by humane morals that, “Life should not be bought.””

“While the nation is putting up a spirited fight against covid-19, citizens and stakeholders are encouraged to be mindful of the threat posed by non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, HIV (AIDS), Hypertension and other chronic health conditions or injuries. It is sad to note that patients beset with immuno-suppression (a condition caused by Communicable Diseases) are more susceptible to covid-19. According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is the ‘second leading cause of worldwide deaths’ only surpassed by covid-19, which recently doubled the casualty rate.

“The origins of cancer (Gomarara, Imvukuzane) can be retraced to about 250 million years ago. The term which means out-of-control growth of abnormal cells was credited to Hippocrates (460-370 BC), a Greek Physician who used the terms, ‘carcinos or carcinomas’ to refer to cancer.

“A Roman Physician called Celsus (28-50 BC) later translated the word carcinomas to ‘cancer’ a Latin word for a crab, while another Greek Physician, Galen (130 – 200AD) used the word, Oncos’ to describe tumours or swellings. Nowadays, the term describes Cancer Specialists, who are known as Oncologists.

“According to the World Health Organisation, cancer caused 9.6 million deaths in the world in the year 2018. At least one out of six deaths was caused by cancer, with seventy per cent cancer deaths occurring in low and medium-income countries.

“According to the Cancer Registry, (2016), a total of two thousand seven hundred and fifty-one (2 751) people died of cancer in Zimbabwe. The threat requires humankind to raise awareness of cancer and advocate prevention, detection and treatment. Hence, the 4th of February of every year was set aside for the World Cancer Day Commemorations.

“This year’s event is running under the theme. “I am and I will Campaign for Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Cancer”. The causes of cancer cover a wide gamut, spanning from:

  • Air Pollution
  • Overweight/ Obesity
  • Genetic/Hereditary
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Unhealthy diet without vegetable or fruit intake.
  • Sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus
  • Ultra-Violet Radiation.
  • Tobacco and cigarettes.
  • Hepatitis or carcinogenic infection.
  • Advanced age.

“Modification or avoidance of key risk factors can reduce the burden of cancer. Citizens are encouraged to forego bad habits and celebrate the longevity of their God-given lives.

“The prevalence of cancer foregrounded the requirement for nations to set up robust and efficient healthcare systems. The above need dovetails with my Ministry’s policies of restructuring and automation of health care service delivery.

“The initiatives will improve accessibility to treatment in both urban and outlying areas. In order to mitigate the effects of Non-Communicable Diseases, my Ministry dedicated a whole Directorate to raise awareness, prevent detect and treat these epidemics.

“Hitherto, commendable strides have been made towards addressing the burden of cancer in Zimbabwe. These include:

  • Training of Oncologists and Oncology Nurses
  • Zimbabwe at the Parirenyatwa School of Nursing and College of Health Sciences.
  • Mass Immunisation Program for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), targeting girls aged between 10 to 14 years to protect them against the development of cervical cancer.
  • Screening programs for Cervical Cancer up to Mass Immunisation Program for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), so targeting girls aged between 10- 14 years to protect them against development or Cervical Cancer.
  • Screening programs for Cervical Cancer up to District Health Facility level. In the year 2020, one hundred and ten thousand six hundred and eighty-six (110 686) women were screened for Cervical cancer. Out of these, five thousand eight hundred and eighty-three (5 883) who tested positive, four thousand five hundred sixty-one (4 561) were treated The treatment rate stood at 77.5 per cent.
  • Establishment of a Cancer Registry, which is located at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. The institution is considered as one of the best in Africa in terms of collecting data for the burden of cancer.
  • Availability of Radiotherapy Treatment Facilities at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Mpilo Hospital.
  • Procurement of essential cancer medicines through NatPharm.
  • Roll out of the Palliative Care Program to health facilities to ensure cancer patients have access to pain management, counselling and support services up to the rural health facility level.
  • Inclusion of screening tools for Cervical Cancer, Breast Cancer and Prostate cancer in the electronic Health Records to ensure robust follow up of cancer patients.

“My Ministry is also updating the Zimbabwe Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy, to make it mandatory for Citizens to De screened for cancer in certain age groups. For example, Prostate Cancer for men aged forty (40) and above.

“My Ministry recognises all stakeholders and health care staff who worked tirelessly towards the successful execution of Cancer programs in Zimbabwe. Admittedly, more effort is still required to ensure that citizens have access to world-class cancer care. Some of the deficit areas include:

  • Decentralisation of specialist oncology services to district hospital level.
  • Increased cancer awareness campaigns targeted at the public focusing on early detection and prevention.
  • Access to screening for other cancers such as Prostate Cancer Screening for men.
  • Inclusion of cancer in the package for essential services that can be accessed at the various levels of health care.
  • Establishment of state-of-the-art health facilities that provide world-class cancer screening and treatment services.
  • Research in the use of Traditional Medicines in cancer management.

“Let me acknowledge that cancer Is one of the leading causes of death in Zimbabwe and therefore, citizens must come together and fight the epidemic. All of us must reflect the individual commitment that resonates with this year’s theme which is “I am and I will Campaign for Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Cancer.”

“It is therefore prudent for all of us to adopt healthy lifestyles. I would like to thank the community for being supportive of this program and look forward to your continued participation.”

This year’s Annual Cancer Awareness and screening Campaign is also hereby launched!” 🔺

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