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By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

A couple of weeks ago, Ted Turner-the founder of CNN and some of his colleagues in the United Nations Foundation visited Nigeria. The main objective of their visit was to evaluate how the nation is responding to polio and other deadly childhood diseases affecting children mostly in northern Nigeria.

As Turner and his team were deliberating with some of our leaders , I wondered to myself, “where are our Turners and what are they doing about the problems of childhood diseases in Nigeria?”, “where are the big boys  and big girls of northern Nigeria; and what have they done about ending child marriages and maternal mortality?”

Do they even know that these problems exist right in their domain?

Now, just in case you are not aware, northern Nigeria is among the very few parts of the world where polio have not been eradicated. The sad side of the story of polio in the north is that its eradication have been given several religious albeit political colouration yet the facts are there to be seen.

With the help of nothern elites Nigerians will stop being the image of polio in Africa

Imagine these scenarios: an illiterate peasant farmer and his wife are stuck with 5 children-all of them crippled by polio with its attendant consequences. And on the other side of the divide, we have the home of an influential northern politician; he is pictured with his 5 children playing football and cycling around the garden ;all five children purportedly born in high brow hospitals and immunized against the childhood deadly diseases including polio.

Just for the records, Bill Gates have spent no less than N114billion in eradicating Polio in Nigeria. (Gates have spent N1.2 Trillion Naira on polio eradication globally. This amount is 1/3 of Nigeria’s 2010 budget of 4.079 Trillion Naira).

And you ask, what are the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria doing about childhood diseases? What are they doing about child marriages and its consequences such as vesico virginal fistula(VVF),obstetrics complication and even death? How are the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria responding to the rate of infant and maternal mortality which appears to be the highest in northern Nigeria?

What about cholera-a disease that broke out this year in most part of northern Nigeria and claimed about 1,550 lives? So, what did the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria do about cholera-a disease that even some poorer countries only read about in newspapers or see on CNN?

The power brokers:These men would live a more fulfilling life eradicating childhood diseases

It is imperative to state that this discourse is not about polio, cholera or the north-south dichotomy. It is actually a lamentation about how we leave undone the little but fundamental things that makes all the difference and pursue bigger things which we end up making nonsense of ;it is a reflection on the current campaign for the presidency of Nigeria vis a vis the burden of the north and what ought to be the primary concern of some of those dying to rule this country albeit by force.

This discourse is borne out of what could be described as an urgent need to redirect the thinking and wisdom of the northern elders forum such that they can truly become the much needed oasis  in northern Nigeria’s desert of underdevelopment and vane quest.

I have always bothered about the irony that  northern Nigeria represents. Northern Nigeria remains the most backward by every standard yet Nigeria have been ruled mostly by presidents from this part.

It won’t be out of place to ask how these men have helped the fate of  northern Nigeria-a region that continues to wallow under the burden of diseases ,mass illiteracy as personified by the ubiquitous almajiris(street urchins) who are all over the place and making nonsense of whatever achievements made by northern political leaders in the name of governance.

And while I was still bemoaning the way mothers(especially teenage girls) are dying in the north, the children that died of lead poisoning early this year, the cholera outbreak, the embarrassing impact of river blindness, diarrhea, guinea worm, vesico virginal fistula, poor enrolment of children in schools, the existence of a northern elders forum brought smiles to my face. I was shocked to know about these “wise” old men and how influential they are even to extent to deciding who becomes the president of Nigeria-the world’s most populous black nation.

Gates:demonstrating the difference between being wealthy and being "possessed by wealth

I am still wondering where these elders stand in the face of the worrisome under development in the north. Im really troubled why these men have not met and arrived at a consensus on how to confront the problems of street urchins in the north.

These elders must be next to Elohim if they can ask Babangida, Gusua and Saraki  to step down for Atiku. And  I said to myself, how come these same elders have not been moved to the point of asking their subjects to award special scholarships to medical students of northern origin so as to strengthen the quality and quantity of  manpower rendering healthcare services in the north.

Perhaps, you would expect these men to speak up against the devastating impact of polio on the future of children. You would expect these men to become icons and advocates against child marriages and regularly engage their brothers and sisters about the need to protect their children from possible disability in the future if they don’t respond positively to polio eradication.

These men(and even women) would rather fly around the country campaigning for the presidential ticket, when there are more than enough work to do in their home state. It took a young man from far away America; a man who had no business doing what he is doing in the north to fight the polio epidemic.

I want to see a Babangida campaigning for an end to maternal mortality and offering to grant women free access to cervical and ovarian cancer screening and treatment, a Gusau advocating for prevention of  mother to child transmission of HIV and access to quality HIV education among young girls and women. I want to see a Bukola Saraki, an Abdul Ogbe, an Adamu Chiroma spend the rest of their lives advocating and pushing for bills that will guarantee access to affordable(if not free)quality health care service for everyone, particularly women and children in the north.

Ciroma:Leader of the "wise men" from the north

All these are  worthy causes any man can spend the rest of his life working for and the good thing about such causes if that you don’t need to rent a crowd to achieve them; you don’t have to pay Nollywood actors, footballers or musicians to sing your praise and you can’t heat up the polity trying to achieve them; it has nothing to do with a zoning formula either.

It is simply about doing things that would make the next generation believe that the word elder is not about senile dementia but about the sanctity and sanity of our redemptive decisions and consensus.

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The production and sale of counterfeit drugs is definitely a global problem. But the sad side of this problem is that it can never be discussed without our beloved country “Nigeria” popping up. And that was exactly what happened at the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

You can still recall the “My Pikin” saga and all the “Pikins”* whose lives it ended in a rather tragic albeit inexplicable manner. Now, with over 8 years of constant raiding and burning of seized drugs, Nigerians simply rely on God to help them choose correctly when buying medicines with their hard earned money.

Before examining the outcome of the 63rd WHA and what progressive countries are doing about fake drugs, would it be out of place to know what is happening to the war against fake drugs since Professor Dora Akunyili left NAFDAC?

It hurts to think that sometimes a tree can actually make a forest. But that is almost becoming the truth about NAFDAC and the war against counterfeit drugs in Nigeria. Even though many of us who argued that Professor Akunyili’s tactics in prosecuting the war would not yield any sustainable result, the war right now appears to have gone to the bed as most Nigerians can’t even remember who the current NAFADAC DG is, let alone feel his presence.

Dr.Paul Orhil,NAFDAC DG:Sir this war needs some verve and creativity and we are yet to be convinced your agency has an effective strategy to prosecute it.

Well,just in case you are one of those who don’t know him and can’t feel him either, the current Director-General of NAFDAC is Dr Paul Orhii.If his doctorate degree in medicine is anything to go bye, we would have seen a renewed vigour in the fight against counterfeit drugs. Or is it too early to start asking questions?

While you are trying to make up your mind, lest find out what’s news about counterfeit drugs.

The World Health Organisation(WHO) during the 63rd WHA promised to assist Nigeria deal with the issue of counterfeit drugs. But my take is, would it be a lasting solution beyond giving loans and sending experts to access how these drugs get into the country and make recommendations on how to block such routes?

Drug counterfeiting we gather often involves expensive hormones, steroids and anti-cancer medicines and pharmaceuticals related to lifestyle in developed countries. But in developing countries, especially Africa, counterfeit medicines are commonly available to treat life-threatening conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

So, you can appreciate why there must not be any lull as we make plans to wage a sustainable war against this enemy beyond the drama of raiding Alaba and Onitsha markets, seizing goods worth millions of naira and burning them for the next day’s cover headline.

Recently, we gathered that mPedigree a Ghanaian SME is working towards providing a sustainable solution to the problem which Nigeria is still struggling to overcome.

This is how the mpedigree concept works

Pharmaceutical companies will emboss  a special codes on drug packaging that are recorded in mPedigree’s database. When you  purchase a drug, you scratch off a panel(like the type on a recharge card) to reveal the unique code and send it via text message to a universal four-digit number. The request is routed to mPedigree’s servers, located in New Hampshire. After sending the code, consumers get a response by text, usually within five seconds, indicating whether the product is genuine or fake.
I hope Dr. Orhii is keeping tab of this cheering trend?

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Im not so sure about any organisation in Nigeria currently implementing  health-specific social campaign.Not even sure about other campaings generally.But the reality is social media have become part of our daily lives.It has changed the way we live,love,sell,worship and even learn.Now…shouldnt change the way we implement health programmes? Should’nt those who decide what people should do about their health in Nigeria begin to maximise the power in social media to increase life expectancy by encouraging healthy life styles and health seeking behaviours? The place of social media in this is that it will  increasing access to life-saving  health/medical information especially if they are creatively produced and activated using the right mix; ie the right right platforms for the right audience. This presentation explores the place of social media in public health.Social Media,health promotion and BCC Campaign The right trategic steps to take in actual implementation  of a social media campaign would be the focus of another presentation to be uploaded soon.

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On April 1,1999,multiple award-winning journalist,Charlene Smith was raped at knife point in her Johannesburg home. Despite her traumatic experience, Charlene chose to speak up about rape and sexual violence and HIV/AIDS using her experience as launch pad. Apparently, Charlene has  made even greater strides than she ever made before the attack by the rapist.

‘Im an emotional Libran, a passionate South African, a devoted mother, a scatter-brained friend and a pretty good cook who loves music and dancing. In the beginning, I thought the rapist had taken the Charlene I loved the most with him; in part he did, but I really like the person she is now. Thank you God for letting me live, to be with my children, to rediscover the love of my birth family…”

Smith:"The rapist wants me to be like him,but I wont allow it and my revenge is speaking out"

In the last eight years, Charlene has led an unrelenting albeit successful campaign against sexual violence and abuse of women and children and has even taken on greater roles as AIDS activist and trauma counselor. A prolific writer and author, Charlene has written  over 5 books many of them on issues of rape, domestic violence and gender justice.

Charlene took out time to speak with Kingsley Obom-Egbulem on sexual violence, her experience with rape and the place of responsible fatherhood in eliminating violence against women.

The issues of rape and indeed sexual abuse and violations are considered by several people as abstractions or “something happening to “them” and not me or us”. How close is this menace to the average woman or man?
It’s very close. In SA, one in two women get raped. One in 4 girls under the age of 15 according to Childline and one in 5 boys under the age of 15.

A lot of rape survivors had vibrant lives, full of dreams and aspirations until their paths crossed with that of a rapist. But you seem to have even made more giant strides and achieved more in life  since you were raped. How would you explain this?
It’s my revenge.  You see, rapists want us to either be cowed and scared, or to be people like them, people who hate without reason. I have no interest in allowing a rapist to change me, in allowing a rapist to rule me, in allowing a rapist to win.  So I don’t forgive because some things are not forgivable, but I also don’t hate because then I would be like the rapist. I have what I call Positive Revenge, living a better, happier, more successful life than before.  I used the rape to help me focus on my life, what I wanted, what I needed, to carefully build the sort of person I wanted to be, to have the sort of future I believed I deserved. Not the rapists future.

But also in speaking out, in helping others, I discovered great abilities and strengths within myself, I kept surprising myself with what I could achieve. By not hating I revealed to myself the huge power of the positive, the fact that most people are good and want to help – you just need to know how to ask and to know too that if you ask with an honest and humble heart you are more likely to achieve than if everything is just about you.  With me it has always been what I could help achieve for all rape survivors and in turn have been rewarded in many personal ways too.

Looking back today do you think that incident could have been avoided? Was there anything you could have done to prevent your being raped?

Smith:"The average woman has a future too bright for a rapist to terminate or destroy,so we need to pick up our lives and try to succeed,speak out as a form of revenge"

Nothing.

When a woman is raped especially outside her house, the thinking most times especially in Africa is that she caused it. Can a woman actually attract a rapist consciously or unconsciously?
Even this question makes me so angry I could scream. Should we say that banks by opening their doors attract robbers, so they should keep them locked? Should we say that every time you carry money it invites an attacker to hit you over the head and steal it? No, we would be considered damn fools and the same goes for suggesting if a woman leaves the house she causes rape. Good God!!! What next?  If a woman cannot walk safe then what are men suggesting about their own weakness? Their own inadequacies?

I usually say if I lay naked on the road no one has the right to harm me.  I stick to that. But these days I am getting too many women raped after they have gone out and got blind drunk – if you drink heavily, you’re asking for trouble – you’re asking to get knocked down if you walk, to die in a traffic accident and you make it easier for rapists to attack you. Women need to show far more respect for themselves.  You cannot behave badly and expect to remain safe.

What has dressing, drugs and alcohol got to do with rape as some men often blame external factors for raping a woman.
No good man would blame the way a woman dresses or behaves on a criminal taking advantage and raping her.  Why is it that men can run naked across soccer fields and never fear they might get raped? Or get blind drunk and fear they will get raped? But globally the statistics with regard to young men show us anyhow that a young man aged 15 to 29 is more likely to die violently than at any stage of his life and in 90% of cases alcohol will be part of that cause.

Husbands or partners of rape survivors are often affected by rape-related stigma and these men often tend to worsen the matter by behaving coldly and often ending the relationship. Is this normal or  a gross sign of weakness?
A person who ends a relationship with a woman raped because she is raped is not a man, I find great difficulty in even calling such a shameful creature a person.

So what form of healing can men provide when a loved one or friend is raped? How can men reduce the pain, shame and feeling of guilt?
By listening. By being there. By being clever about sex – loving touch is often sexier than penetration only … Take is slow and discover the pleasures of a trusting relationship, a content woman and great sex. Corinthians 13 has the best explanation of love and loving I’ve read and
that is all that is needed, follow those guidelines.

The man who attacked you was arrested prosecuted and jailed. Did that contribute in any way to your recovery?

I was glad he was  put away and that he could not harm anyone else; yes. I also
did not have to fear that he might come back.

As a trauma counselor, how traumatic is a situation where a rape survivor indentifies the man who raped her ,reports to the police, he is arrested and the next day released?
Exceptionally traumatic! Especially for children rape. I and all counselors experience profound difficulty with children raped. When this happens they start believing no adult can be trusted and this often leads to profoundly delinquent and even suicidal behaviour.

What’s the fate of gender justice in South Africa with the emergence of Jacob Zuma as leader of the African National Congress(ANC) and possibly the next president of South Africa considering his antecedents as a man who was indicted of rape but mysteriously escaped being sentenced?

Gender justice in South Africa started off well in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela, we made rapid gains, all of which began reversing as rapidly after the election of Thabo Mbeki in 1999.It is up to us as women to stand up and make our views known, we will get who we are not prepared to accept if we fail to speak out.

The statistics on rape and sexual violation of girls and women in South  Africa remains the highest in the world. Has this always been the case? How did the world get to this point?

Rape stats have been high in the two decades or so that they are not been taken. But globally rape is the crime least likely to result in an arrest, least likely to result in an effective conviction. Globally a woman is more likely to be murdered by someone she loves. In every country of the world a woman or child is most likely to be physically or verbally abused, hit, beaten or killed by someone she loves and should be able to trust. Sexual trafficking is now a crime more profitable than drug smuggling. Sexual violence is the fastest growing crime in the world. I think that the breakdown of family values, absent fathers and overworked mothers who yell at their children and hit them all help contribute to this and of course a disinterested police force and criminal justice system in every country of the world.

Are these ills a reflection of the growing failure of fatherhood as the world continues to produce absentee fathers and boys who lack proper parenting and mentoring?

Absolutely. Parents are failing by the day…and a parent who fails a child is creating a burden for generations to come. Robert Morrell and Linda Richter, in Baba: Men and Fatherhood in South Africa, observe that in Umlazi, Durban, for example, only 7,000 of 67,000 people ordered by courts to pay maintenance complied in 2002. In the same year, district courts received 372,000 complaints of maintenance default in the Durban area alone (a city of around 1 million citizens). In South Africa, 59 percent of children live in households without fathers. Less than 5 percent of those ordered to pay maintenance actually pay.

Morrell and Richter noted too that 25 percent of children are sexually abused each year (most often by incest). Only 20 percent of fathers who were not married to the child’s mother at the time of the infant’s birth were in contact with the child by the time he or she reached age 11. Those figures for South Africa are alarming, but across the world many parents fail their children and it has led to an explosion of youth violence and the statistics for youth violence are equally staggering.

According to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), 5 ,570 young people -aged 10 to 24 were murdered in 2003 in the US – an average of 15 each day. Of these victims, 82 per percent were killed with firearms. These figures are outrageous and a severe indictment on parents, and what is worse, they are reflected across the world.

And in a nationwide survey of high school students, about six percent reported not going to school on one or more days in the thirty days preceding the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to and from school. And so children become further isolated from opportunity because the parents of some have no control over their children. And control is not something you obtain by punishment or threat; it’s achieved through love, consistent caring and attention, by always being available to listen and praising more than criticizing.

What can a country like Nigeria do to check incidents of rape and all forms of abuse of women?
Nigeria and every country can work hard to improve the rights of women and children. If women are safe, children are safe. It can ensure that any crime in which an individual of either gender is harmed is effectively investigated and prosecuted. We all need to treat each other with greater care and respect in our day to day lives.

Sexual Violence and its toll on Public Health

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“I have all these things going around my head. But my biggest fear is HIV. Every time I think about the rape I think I could be infected with HIV. I have no peace. And if the baby has HIV, what am I going to do?

-Woman, 22 years old, raped when she was three months pregnant, Burundi.

This was one of the fallout of the war in Burundi: sexual violence and its  frightening consequences: the spread of HIV, defilement of children and a devastation of homes and relationships.

Sexual violence is a violation of human rights and a serious public health problem. You only need to listen to survivors of this heinous crime to appreciate its implication on public health. There is an ongoing debate to determine whether or not sexual violence has public health implication. But while this debate rages on, a careful study of  the factors driving the HIV prevalence  and other sexually transmitted diseases(STIs) in Nigeria should be enough to take an informed stand on the need to address rape, incest, child sexual abuse and other  forms of sexual violence.

According to the World Health Organisation(WHO) a wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women

Based on accounts of survivors, there is no gainsaying that sexual violence has a profound impact on physical and mental health, both immediately and many years after the assault. According to the Sexual Violence Research Initiative(SVRI), “ sexual violence to date has received insufficient attention from researchers, policy-makers and programme designers and it has been a long struggle to have it recognised as a legitimate public health issue.”

Sexual violence is devastating in any setting; survivors often experience guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, tension, an exaggerated startle response, depression, anger, impaired memory and concentration, and/or rapid mood swings. These disorders have grave implications on the health of the survivor and those who depend on them like children and subordinates.

Perhaps, it against this background that the right environment should be encouraged for survivors to speak out and get the right care and support.

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Compiled by Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

39,210

Number of doctors in Nigeria

26

Number of accredited medical schools in Nigeria

2,392 and 1,529

**The number of Nigerian doctors practicing in the US and UK respectively

39 per 100,000 populations

Ratio of patients to a doctor in Nigeria:

N101,107.64

The average salary( at entry point) of a Nigerian doctor employed in government  run hospital

3,567

Estimated number of Nigerian doctors that migrated overseas in 2007

Figure calculated using proxy data like requests for certificate of good standing

69% of Nigeria’s health budget spent on tertiary care(Prof.Babatunde Osotimehin,March 2010)

70%

The percentage of Nigeria’s health budget spent in urban areas where 30% of the population resides

5%

The percentage of Nigeria’s budget allocated to health.To actualize the goals of the MDGs’ and solve most of health care problems, Nigeria is expected to spend 15% of its total budget on health.

N39.6 billion

Nigeria’s allocation to the health sector in the 2009 budget.The entire budget was

*46.94 years

Life expectancy at birth: total population:
male: 46.16 years ;female: 47.76 years (2009 est.)

*152,616,000

Nigeria’s Population

*1 in 18

Risk of Maternal Death

*75 out of every 1000 births

Infant Mortality rate

*4.6%

HIV/AIDS Prevalence(based on 2008 sero-prevalence survey)

N114billion

Amount spent by Bill Gates in eradicating Polio in Nigeria.Gates have spent N1.2 Trillion Naira on polio eradication globally.This amount is 1/3 of Nigeria’s 2010 budget of 4.079 Trillion Naira.

 


*Source: Population Reference Bureau, 2010

**Wikipedia

NB:This posting will be constantly updated

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By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

It’s signs and symptoms are simply frightening! And the moment you starts noticing them, it is either getting late, late or too late. That is Cervical Cancer for you-one of the leading terminators of our time.

Vaginal bleeding, contact bleeding or (rarely) a vaginal mass may indicate the presence of malignancy, moderate pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal discharge are symptoms, in advance stages metastases may be present in the abdomen, lungs or elsewhere, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, single swollen leg, heavy bleeding from the vagina, leaking of urine or faeces from the vagina, and bone fractures

As I thought through these horrific symptoms and tried to picture  an average woman experiencing them, and I simply uttered “God forbid” to myself.

In fact, If I were to advice Margaret Hardisty,  author of the best selling, witty yet soul searching book “Forever my Love: What every man should know about his wife”, I would definitely asked her to include a chapter perhaps with the title “Your wife’s health, your real deal”.

And nothing would have prompted this move other than the feeling that many men are going to be widowers this year, just because they refused to ask their wives to go for a pap smear-the medical term for  screening for Cervical Cancer which is unarguably one of the leading causes of death among women in developing countries.

For many sexually active women, and their equally sexually active male partners, this disease is not something to be neutral about .It is contributing immensely towards reducing life expectancy in Nigeria.

As part of the International Women’s Day (IWD)Celebration this year, some organizations in Lagos took the initiative to not only educate women on the dangers of cervical cancer but also conduct free screening. Of course not many women took advantage of this exercise.

It is disheartening that men can afford to take their wives out and buy them clothes, shoes and all brands of designer make-ups and perfumes. But not many would be humane enough to say “honey have you gone for a pap smear to know whether you are at risk for Cervical Cancer?”

What about the ladies themselves? Aren’t they bothered about their lives and health even if their husbands are not?

Indeed for any woman -one way to show that your life is worth more than Swiss lace or a pair of designer office suits or dinner gown is to go for a pap smear and commence early treatment or put in place preventive measures as far as cervical cancer is concerned.

Professor Rose Arnolu, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital stunned everyone at the Vanguard Allure in March 2009 when she stated that “Cervical Cancer,” not malaria, childbirth or HIV/AIDS “is the highest killer of women in Nigeria”.

Not a thing to smile about:In addition to HIV and maternal mortality,African women also have cervical cancer to contend with

Not a thing to smile about:In addition to HIV and maternal mortality,African women also have cervical cancer to contend with

Well, one may say “that is the usual statistics  they always give to frighten us and make us come to hospitals so that doctors can collect or money ”. But I wonder what Professor  Arnolu stands to gain by frightening people about Cervical Cancer.

Cervical Cancer according to Professor Arnolu is  is malignant cancer of the cervix or cervical area which is kills a woman every two minutes. It may show up inform of vaginal bleeding but symptoms may be absent until the cancer is in its advanced stages and by this time very little can be done to salvage the situation. Treatment consists of surgery in early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in advanced stages of the disease.

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection according to experts  is a necessary factor in the development of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV vaccine effective against the two strains of HPV that cause the most cervical cancer has been licensed in the U.S. and the EU. These two HPV strains together are currently responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancers. Since the vaccine only covers some high-risk types, women should seek regular Pap smear screening, even after vaccination

A pap smear screening can identify potentially precancerous changes. Treatment of high grade changes can prevent the development of cancer. In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs has reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer by 50% or more.

A pap smear  involves a doctor or nurse inserting a spatula into the vagina to take a sample of cells. These cells are then taken to a lab for inspection. Although slightly an uncomfortable procedure, it is quick, painless and saves lives.

Women are advised to go for a pap smear at least once every year. The good news is that, if spotted early enough, cervical cancer is very treatable. So, it is important that women everywhere take regular smear tests. But women who have many sexual partners (or who have sex with men or who had many other partners) have a greater risk and that is because HPV has been identified as been a sexually transmitted virus. So, the risk involved with respect to risky sexual behavior is not just HIV as we all have HPV to contend with.

Looking at its profile or can we say its Curriculum Vitae alone there no news saying that Cervical Cancer is is frightening and deadly! In fact the only good thing (if there is any)about it is that it can it give a 15-year notice before it finally seals any chances of survival. And that is some lee way for any wise woman to act and save her life from this silent plague.

But how can you save your life from something you don’t know anything about. Results from a Health Information National Trends survey, conducted by the US National Cancer Institute in 2005,a only 40% of American women surveyed had heard of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and only 20% had heard of its link to cervical cancer despite the fact that an estimated 3,870 of them will die of cervical cancer, and around 11,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed each year.

The Nigerian picture is even  more pathetic as the mortality figure is even thrice that number and the level of ignorance of the disease among women is even pathetic. While most women in Nigeria can tell you about the latest Nollywood movie and the latest Organza lace in town, very few can tell you what HPV or cervical cancer is. This is understandable! Knowledge can be scare at times. But what do they do with it when you make it available?

Recently, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in partnership with the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme( NCCPP) embarked on a nationwide free screening and treatment of cervical cancer project for women above 18 years in the country – a programme aimed at reducing the scourge in the country by the end of 2009. The programme was focused mainly on the screening and treatment of 100, 000 women, especially the under privileged women in the rural areas.

According to Dr. Kin J-Egwuonwu  the NCCPP National Coordinator  less than 0.1 per cent of Nigerian women availed themselves this screening and less than 1 per cent are aware of the existence of this killer disease, thereby killing a woman every one hour.

It takes about N1000 to screen one woman(at government laboratories) but a good number of under privileged women cannot afford it. Even those  who can  afford it would rather buy recharge cards and make  fruitless calls or better still  walk into  the nearest fast food joint and eat packs of burger and hotdog  and wash it down with a 50 cl of soft drinks than  go for any medical screening.

Someone might want to say…”what’s your business if I spend my money on recharge cards or on burger, chicken pies and ice cream?”.That question can be considered if the person asking is young and not sexually active but not if you fall within this category of women considered by experts as highly prone to Cervical cancer: women who  started  sexual activity quite early, women who were young at first pregnancy or at young age when they had their first child, women who have many children. women who smoke, women living with HIV and women who have had other sexually transmitted infections in the past.

Perhaps this is where the man comes in as it takes two to tango in all of these high risk situations. Being the head of the house, the man can demonstrate leadership by asking his wife and sexually active daughters to go for a pap smear. That way he would be saving himself a lot of pain and anguish. Please don’t ask me how to indentify your daughter who is sexually active!

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