First Ladies in the country under the aegis of the non-governmental organisation, First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC), have called on government and other stakeholders to increase efforts towards the provision of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for girls and boys.
In a statement signed by the Wife of Kebbi State governor, Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu unbehalf of other first ladies to mark this year’s Day of the African Child (DAC), they said doing so would protect them against cervical cancer and was also in line with aspiration four of the African Child Charter aimed at child survival and ensuring healthy childhood.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: Accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children”.
The first ladies said, “millions of girls in Africa today have no access to the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer.
“Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women in sub-Saharan Africa. It is preventable by giving HPV vaccine to girls and boys before sexual activity starts. The HPV vaccine has been available for 15 years and is available as a routine immunization in over 71 countries, most of which are high income.”
They said global shortages in supply have exacerbated the access gap between high and low middle income countries, adding that Nigeria and other countries have been unable to include HPV vaccines into their routine immunization schedule despite reasonably high political will and making funds available.
According to FLAC, achieving cervical cancer elimination by 2030 as prescribed by WHO’s Global Strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer is not feasible if the situation persists.
“We, therefore, call on global and national actors critical to delivering cervical cancer elimination that words must translate into actions now. Accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer requires global cooperation between governments, pharmaceutical industry, non-governmental bodies, and multilateral agencies.
“We expect to see partnerships similar to those that transformed HIV care across the globe. We have also seen a highly commendable and swift global action in the creation, production and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Meaning the same can be done for HPV vaccine. The time to act is now, Do it for the African child,” they said.
In 1991, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then OAU instituted the Day of the African Child (DAC) in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.