July 13, 2015
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programme last week held its inaugural meeting for the establishment of a National Coordination Committee for the prevention and control of cervical cancer in Sierra Leone.
Part of the role of the 15-man committee would include the responsibility for the project oversight; reconcile difference in opinion, the project scope under control and report on the progress of the project to the Ministry of Health at a high level.
Addressing the meeting, the Medical Superintendent of the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH), Senior Gynecologist Specialist, Dr. Alimamy Philip Koroma, reminded his audience about the silent deaths of women in rural Sierra Leone due to cultural beliefs, taboos and lack of awareness and education on the disease.
He stressed the need for the involvement of specialists in addressing the situation, pointing out that working in isolation leaving out the experts would not help to make the necessary impact.
Prevention, Dr. Koroma maintained, is key in the fight to control cervical cancer to save the lives of women and children, but that screening and surveillance are also paramount in taking the necessary intervention.
Pathologist, Dr. Simeon Owiss Koroma, underscored the importance of data, diagnostic, treatment, surveillance and awareness raising on the disease if the situation is to be salvaged.
He said to beef up the diagnostic arm of the project, clinicians and experts committed and willing to cooperate to deliver their services must be incorporated, adding that selfishness and personal gains have been the problem of collective efforts in achieving the desired goal.
Director of Reproductive and Child Health, Dr. Santigie Sesay, observed that a good number of women are being seen for cervical cancer, some of them he said reported late but with very little or no existing data on the disease.
“If cervical cancer can be prevented and controlled in other countries why not Sierra Leone,” asked Dr. Sesay. “Our priority and strategy in the prevention and control of cervical cancer must be put in a strait jacket to forge ahead with the challenges to save the lives of our young girls and women.”
He dilated on the struggle with communicable diseases and the progress the Health Ministry is making on neglected tropical diseases, and called on partners to assist his directorate and the ministry with the new initiative in the fight against cervical cancer, including breast cancer.
The Manager, Reproductive Health and Family Planning, Dr. Sulaiman Conteh, described cervical cancer as a major concern affecting the African continent with no data on the Sierra Leone situation. Most of the data coming out, he said, are from individuals with no comprehensive calculation.
He noted the lack of systems on data collection, the absence of policies, strategies or programmes, and the economic and psycho-social burden of the disease with insufficient information and skills to address the problem.
Highlights of the meeting included the formation of a National Coordination Committee for the prevention and control of cervical cancer and the development of an action plan.