Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Cancer Day on 4 February. In addition, 15 to 21 February is Orange Week – a time to raise awareness about early detection and childhood cancer. During Orange Week schools in and around Harare will choose a date when they will wear orange and donate a $1 or more to children with cancer.
Cancer is a major cause of mortality in Zimbabwe with over 5,000 new diagnoses and over 1,000 deaths each year according to the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the launch of Orange Week at Island Hospice on Tuesday, Dr Gibson Mhlanga who is the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health as well as the principle director of Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC), said cancer currently causes more deaths than HIV, Malaria and TB combined.
“Cancer has not spared the young ones who are equally affected. Attention across the board is required. The MOHCC therefore calls upon us all to take action against cancer now. Prevention costs less than treatment and many cancers can be cured if detected early. Early treatment improves survival rates and quality of life,” he said.
Kidzcan is an organisation that deals with childhood cancer and helps by paying for medication for affected children among other things. Caroline Mashaya is the mother of Michelle, a childhood cancer survivor. She said it was not easy having her daughter’s leg amputated and she thanks Kidzcan for assisting them when they needed help. .
Kidzcan Executive Director, Dr Ntombi Muchuchuti said the organisation plays a complementary role to government cancer prevention efforts and management programmes. “It is the only humanitarian child-centred private voluntary organisation dedicated to the provision of clinical childhood cancer care, psycho-social support services, supportive care services and advocacy” she said.
According to the 2013 Zimbabwean National Cancer Registry annual report, Harare recorded 2,062 cancer deaths – 1,111 women and 951 men. Gift Marunda from Kidzcan said the reason why women are more affected is that in Zimbabwe, cervical cancer is the most prevalent cancer.
Madeline Dube is the Communication Director of the National AIDS Council and was the MC at the launch. She echoed Mashaya’s sentiments. Her son was also diagnosed with cancer after he had completed his A’ Levels and was told he might not have children. Now he is the father of eight year-old twins. In both cases, early detection and treatment saved their children’s lives.
Image: Dr Gibson Mhlanga who is the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health