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An array of hope for Eritreans: A secondary prevention mechanism strategy to eradicate Uterine Cervical Cancer in Eritrea

Eritrea, a gold producing state of sub-Saharan Africa and a former Italian colony, possesses a current population of 5.6 million, scattered over a land area of 117,400 square km (BBC News, 2017). According to Rugge, M. et al. (2018), almost 51% of the Eritrean population is female with a fertility rate of 4.32; and a population density of 50 per square km.

As of 2017, around 60% of world’s cancer patients currently reside in low-income countries of Africa, Asia, South and Central America and 70% of world’s cancer-related deaths also occurred in these regions. World’s fourth most common cancer is Uterine Cervical Cancer (UCC) and it is also the second biggest reason behind all the cancer-related deaths of the world. Young women are common victims of UCC and UCC-related deaths and this record is as high as 90% in low income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, 34.8 per 100,000 women are suffering from UCC every year and it kills 22.5 per 100,000 women. Information on UCC related deaths occurring in Eritrea have not been found (Rugge, M. et al. 2018).

In 2013, along with the support from Eritrean Ministry of Health, Padova University Hospital of Italy collaborated with Orotta National Referral Hospital of Asmara (capital of Eritrea), to combat UCC in Eritrea (Temesghen, 2017). This project, carried out in two phases (2014–2016; 2017–2018), aimed to establish secondary prevention mechanism (detection and treatment of precancerous lesions - a much less expensive strategy than the primary UCC prevention strategy), in eradicating UCC. The project included steps such as training local technicians in conducting and assessing Pap smear tests, monitoring the progress of these technicians, setting up Pap smear and colposcopy clinic with proper installations of laboratory equipment and finally collecting Pap smear sample from the Eritrean population.

By the end of 2018, the project targets to collect samples from 5,000 Eritrean women  (Rugge, M. et al. 2018). In an interview to journalist Billion Temesghen, Professor Daria Minucci, one of the experts in the field said, “We can read of varied experiences in the ‘science literature’, although I don’t think an organized prevention campaign has been done in Africa or in any of the third world countries so far. Therefore, I am eager for the success of this project” (Temesghen, 2017). 

One of the primary goals of this project is also to make it a self-sustaining one and hence one of the pioneers of this project, Dr. Michele Cosentino said, “It is exactly what we’re aiming for. There is no development in coming back and forth when we have so many youngsters who are ready to help. We show them how the tests are done, and we can rest assured for decades. When we show our youngsters the way, they will run on their own speed” (Temesghen, 2017).

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References

BBC News (2017) Eritrea Country Profile. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13349078 (Accessed: 16 March 2018).

Rugge, M. F.A.C.G. Cosentino, M. Kebreab, WG. Bassan, P. et al. (2018) ‘Uterine Cervical Cancer Prevention in Eritrea: Development and Results of a Pilot Project’, Archives of Community Medicine and Public Health, 4(1): 008-012. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17352/2455-5479.000033.

Screening for Cervical Cancer, Essential Screening Tests Every Woman Needs, October 2017. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-screening-tests-women (Accessed: 21 March 2018).

Temesghen, B. (2017) Dr. Manetti’s and Dr. Michele’s gift to society. Available at: http://www.shabait.com/articles/q-a-a/23694-dr-manettis-and-dr-micheles-gift-to-society- (Accessed: 18 March 2018).

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