Last year, four very passionate cancer advocates dedicated a fortnight of walking to raise funds to open a branch in Francistown to cover the north of the country and most importantly, create awareness in villages and towns along their journey from Francistown to Gaborone.
This year, 2014, six motivated and enthusiastic cancer advocates will embark on another fortnight of walking. They’ll be walking from Ramokgwebana to Bobonong creating awareness in the strategically picked towns and villages along the said route.
The 2013 walk A1- Francistown to Gaborone, was to show the link that will be there between the Gaborone and Francistown branches. 2014 is about creating cancer awareness in the villages that will benefit from the new branch. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) members noted, a lot more awareness in our communities could be done in line with Target 5 of the World Cancer Declaration: “To dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about Cancer” hence Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB) continuing it’s radical and equally challenging endeavor once again.
Khumuoyame Gaobolelelwe from the CAB, who was one of the participants in last year’s lavender walk, says this year’s walk will be more of an information dissemination exercise on general cancer awareness. “We will be holding presentations at the different kgotlas which we will be camping at along the way, starting in Ramokgwebana, Tsamaya, Francistown, Tonota, Foley Siding, Serule, Selibe Phikwe, Sefhophe and Bobonong.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) cervical cancer is the most common cancer among Botswana women aged between 15 and 44 years. Statistics show that about 85 percent of women in Botswana seek medical assistance when the cancer is at an advanced stage and cannot be cured.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH), Shenaaz El-Halabi, mentioned earlier this year at the World Cancer Day commemorations, that cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer affecting women, is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Botswana.
“Adopting a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, good hygiene, exercise, and regular screening for cancer can delay the onset of fully fledged conditions,” said Halabi. She added that it is worrisome that tobacco use among women is on the rise, when smocking is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer.
Meanwhile, the cause of cervical cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV), is now established and simpler alternative screening methods have been proven acceptable and safe. As such, the MoH adopted a new five-year strategy, dubbed the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme (NCCPP), to scale up comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control.
The 2004-9 National Cervical Cytology screening method focused primarily on public sensitization and roll-out of wide scale cytological screening but not treating women with positive results. The programme that will run till 2016 directs particular focus on the scale-up of a robust prevention screening and treatment programme. For anyone interested in supporting or participating in this years’ lavender walk can visit www.cancer.org.bw.