Zimbabwean Village Health Worker Spearheads Cervical Cancer Screening Efforts

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IN the heart of Ringari Village, Makonde District, Mary Mungwere stands as a beacon of hope and progress.

As a Village Health Worker (VHW) attached to Umboe Clinic, Mary’s dedication to combating cervical cancer has yielded remarkable results, with her efforts contributing to over 30,000 screenings conducted in Mashonaland West Province.

Mary’s journey, according to APO, began with training in cervical cancer screening using HPV DNA testing in November 2023. Since then, she has tirelessly mobilized her community through door-to-door interactions, reaching beyond five villages to ensure access to screening services. Her proactive approach has led to 75 women being screened in her community alone.

Reflecting on her experience, Mary shared, “We started mobilizing communities right after the training. Now, some women come to my house seeking screening services, demonstrating the impact of our outreach efforts.”

One such beneficiary, Maroro Nyumbwe, expressed gratitude for the early detection facilitated by Mary’s efforts. “Although it was tough news,” Maroro shared, “I am grateful for the early detection that allowed for timely intervention.”

Umboe Clinic, located in the hard-to-reach part of Makonde, serves as a vital hub for cervical cancer screening in rural areas. Dr. Celestino Dhege, Provincial Medical Director for Mashonaland West, emphasized the importance of decentralized services to village level, facilitated by trained VHWs.

Recently, Umboe Clinic hosted a high-level delegation from the World Health Organization (WHO), including Dr. Douglas Mombeshora, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, WHO’s Director for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The visit aimed to assess Zimbabwe’s progress in cervical cancer elimination and explore avenues for collaboration.

Cervical cancer remains a significant public health challenge in Zimbabwe, with alarming incidence and mortality rates. Dr. Mombeshora highlighted the need for equitable access to screening services, particularly in rural areas where challenges persist.

Despite these challenges, Zimbabwe has made commendable progress in cervical cancer response. Initiatives such as HPV vaccination programs and expanded screening services have contributed to early detection and intervention. Collaboration with international partners, including WHO, presents opportunities to scale up interventions and improve access to life-saving services.

Dr. Mikkelsen underscored the importance of a multi-pronged approach to eliminate cervical cancer, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions and stakeholder commitment. WHO’s global strategy aims to achieve key goals by 2030, including high vaccination and screening rates and improved management for women diagnosed with cervical disease.

With concerted efforts and strategic partnerships, Zimbabwe is poised to make significant strides towards cervical cancer elimination, ensuring a healthier future for women across the nation.