Nairobi, Kenya 28th February 2023 – Kenya is ranked among the top 20 countries globally with the highest incidence of cervical cancer. Even though it is second in incidence after breast cancer, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in Kenya; sadly, nine women die of cervical cancer every day.
KILELE Health Association, a local Non-Profit that works with cancer survivors and caregivers to increase the quality of life in survivorship held its first National Stakeholders Engagement Forum, as a catalyst to sensitize Healthcare Practitioners, Key Opinion Leaders and Business Leaders in the Private Sector, as well as Local and International Partners on the need to take deliberate action and commit to helping Kenya achieve the WHO 90-70-90 Targets by 2030.
The forum comes as a response to the WHO 2020 Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of Cervical Cancer as a public health problem. The Global WHO Strategy calls on governments to enable 90% of girls to be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by age 15, 70% of women are screened at ages 35 and 45 years, and 90% of women identified with pre-cancer or invasive cervical cancer receive treatment.
The forum’s main objective was to brainstorm and formulate a clear road map for the active involvement of Corporates in Kenya through innovative strategies and interventions for sustained advocacy, communication, awareness creation and mobilization of their workforce to support the WHO Strategy for Cervical Cancer Elimination.
According to the report, countries have only 7 years left, until 2030, to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) targets that will help make cervical cancer elimination a reality within this ambitious timeframe.
Kenneth Mwige, Director General, Kenya Vision 2030, Benda Kithaka, Kilele Health Association Executive Director, with H E. Hon. Cecily Mbarire, MGH, Governor, Embu County during the launch of the Thamani Yetu Campaign held at Mercure Hotel, Upperhill on Tuesday 28th February 2023. Thamani Yetu Campaign is safeguarding cervical health in Kenya to help achieve the WHO 90-70-90 targets by 2030.
Speaking at the event as Chief Guest, H. E. Hon. Cecily Mbarire, MGH, Governor, Embu County said, “The Level of cervical cancer awareness is low, let’s raise our voice about cervical cancer at a political level and upscale engagement with Council of Governors and Kenya Women Parliamentarians and push for more budgetary allocation and resources for reproductive health in the counties. Most rural homes are run and managed by women. The whole family risks collapsing when the woman falls ill,” said Mbarire.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths among Kenyan women, yet it is preventable with the HPV Vaccine and easily detectable/curable in its early stages. Sadly the GLOBOCAN report 2020 indicates that 15 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each day in Kenya, and 9 women die daily. These women are at their prime and are active contributors to the economy, and are the glue that holds families, small businesses and communities together.
Speaking during the event, Benda Kithaka, Executive Director, KILELE Health said, “By 2040, it is estimated that Cervical cancer deaths will rise by nearly 50% if we don’t act. These deaths can be averted if we act today.”
“I am concerned because 50% of Kenya’s workforce is made up of women. We want to ensure our women continue to work and contribute to the economy productively, however, they need to access screening and timely treatment so that we ultimately eliminate cervical cancer.” Kithaka added
Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for cancer control. 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, and existing evidence-based prevention strategies.
In October 2019, Kenya introduced the HPV Vaccine into a routine immunization schedule targeted at 10-year-old girls. According to the Ministry of Health National Vaccines and Immunisation Program (MOH-NVIP), only 56% of eligible girls had received the first dose of the HPV Vaccine, and a dismal 31% had received the second dose to complete the recommended two doses for effective protection against cervical cancer by October 2021.
Barriers to the uptake of the HPV Vaccine, include a lack of knowledge about HPV and the HPV vaccine, fear about the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, and perceived cost of the HPV vaccine. An additional possible explanation for the high drop-out rate could also be the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions to healthcare systems.
The National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022 is the roadmap charted by The National Cancer Control Program (NCCP) within the Ministry of Health, which has enabled great milestones in ensuring the country has the necessary policy framework, strategies and guidelines for cervical cancer screening and treatment.
Kenya has over 9,000 Health Facilities ranging from Level 2 Primary Care Facilities to Level 5 National Referral Hospitals yet only 16% of women access screening for cervical cancer in Kenya. Regrettably, only 12 of these facilities have the capacity to adequately treat cancer with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The majority of these are located in Nairobi County – the capital city of Kenya. Therefore many patients diagnosed late require to travel long distances to access treatment and care, which leads to lack of follow-up as a result of cost, distance and logistical challenges to attain health.
“Kilele Health is joining worldwide leaders, cancer survivors, advocates, partners, and stakeholders to call for action to eliminate cervical cancer through dialogue. There are over 30 organizations in Kenya that are working in cancer to bring resources, information and interventions for people to prevent and even cure some cancers. It takes all of us to create a Cervical Cancer-free-future for current as well as generations to come,” said Benda.
KEY TAKEOUTS FROM NATIONAL CANCER CONTROL PROGRAMME AND DIRECTOR GENERAL AG. HEALTH, MINISTRY OF HEALTH, KENYA
According to Dr. Mary Nyangasi – Head of the National Cancer Control Programme speaking on behalf of Dr. Patrick Amoth, Director General Ag. Health, Ministry of Health, Kenya
The Ministry of Health partnered with the World Bank to produce an investment case for cancer in Kenya in 2022. The cost of investing in HPV vaccination will be outweighed by the benefits within 30 years of the program’s implementation according to the economic report. The report demonstrated that in the long term the benefits of breast and cervical cancer programs outweigh their costs, and do generate a positive return on investment. Scaling up prevention and early detection interventions for breast and cervical cancers was also recommended and in this regard, the NHIF benefit package is currently being revised to include cervical cancer prevention strategies.