3 July Jul 2012 1148 03 July 2012

St. Kizito in campaign against cervical cancer for healthy women in Lagos, Nigeria

In Nigeria, especially in the sprawling metropolis of Lagos under the growing pressure of massive urbanization, the gap between rich and poor is ever wider; women and families are suffering the worst of the great social and economic challenges in an environment which is increasingly hostile and alienating for them.
Women and children have repeatedly been identified as the most vulnerable populations in the traditional structure of Nigerian society, and so now are the ones bearing the greatest burdens due to an insecure and malfunctioning society.
In addition to its 20 years of work to support children’s education and health, AVSI has also always worked to affirm the value of women, both within the family and within the society of Nigeria, by concrete forms of support and care. One example are the nearly 10 years AVSI and St. Kizito Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) have operated the Women’s Health Education Program (WHE), saving women’s lives by educating about and preventing the most common diseases among women: hypertension and breast and cervical cancers. For cervical cancer, AVSI has adopted the simple and inexpensive VIA/VILI screening method, diffusing it both through trainings for health care workers and through community awareness meetings on detecting early signs of cervical cancer, which is the second most deadly type of cancer in Nigeria.
WHE screening for women is integrated in the routine services offered and in the staff training at St Kizito PHC, but an ongoing outreach campaign is also reaching women (usually groups of 50-100) through local associations and in the nearby urban neighborhoods.
This June, AVSI is participating in a major screening campaign promoted as part of the PEACE Project (Providing Early Attention for Cervical cancer Everywhere), founded by Peace Okonkwo, one of the national leaders of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), one of the main Evangelical churches in Nigeria.
Okonkwo wanted to celebrate her 60th birthday by launching an awareness campaign with the goal of reaching 10,000 women. A gala concert on June 2 helped to raise funds for the cervical cancer screening campaign, with AVSI and St. Kizito listed among the important partners in the effort. Taking advantage of the visibility brought by the concert, that same daya group of AVSI staff led a widespread mobilization in the markets and streets of Lagos to inform women of the initiative. On June 9 a first screening was conducted in the TREM headquarters, reaching 613 women, including the organizers of the program.
Planning such an event with its large scale provided many organizational obstacles for the staff of St. Kizito, but their response to the challenge was a testament to the tenacity and passion that animates the women and men being educated in the daily work of the clinic. AVSI and St. Kizito accepted the challenge to reaffirm their dedication to the protection of women in every dimension of their lives, closely intertwined with the commitment to support the family as the nucleus of society.