AMAECHI PERCY ONYEJEKWE, Awka
The need to check the rising cases of cancer in Nigeria received a boost in Anambra State when wife of the state governor, Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano led a road campaign/march tagged: “Walk for Hope to End Cancer Now” to create awareness on the cancer scourge and raise fund for the establishment of an ultra-modern cancer treatment centre in Awka, Anambra State.
The awareness march which was organized by the Anambra State Association (ASA) Women USA in collaboration with the Office of the Wife of Governor of Anambra State, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Anambra State Women Association Lagos, the Breast Without Spot Foundation and the Saint Charles Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha had as its theme: “Every Life Deserves World Class Care.”
The march preceded a seminar at the field of the ABS, Awka, witnessed the campaigners comprising of young and old men and women trek more than two and half kilometres from ABS complex through Aroma Junction en route Enugu-Onitsha Expressway to the Office of the Governor, before terminating at the Office of the Wife of the Governor.
Speaking after receiving the campaigners, Governor Willie Obiano who spoke through the Commissioner for Information, Chief Tony Onyima lauded the organizers and expressed the hope that the event would draw attention to the proposed Cancer treatment Centre being embarked upon by the ASA Women USA with the support of the Anambra State government.
Earlier in an address, Mrs Obiano, represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Primary Health, Dr. Mrs. Chioma Ezenyimulu, who identified with the mission of the organizers stressed that it was necessary for patients to go for check-ups adding that cancer was curable when dictated early.
“It is interesting that you chose this avenue of physical exercise of Walk to draw attention and create awareness about the threat of Cancer and the need for its early detection and prevention especially amongst our women I know that apart from the sacrifices of time, you have also put-in enormous resources to sustain your association and the organization of this Walk for Hope to End Cancer Now! It is a fitting call to action which must be embraced by all and sundry since cancer is a disease that knows neither age nor gender and does not have any quick fix other than early detection and prevention. It is against this background that I encourage Ndi Anambra and other health conscious citizens to contribute to the Fundraising for this programme by donating to the cause.I have no doubt that this Walk for Hope to End cancer would boost awareness about cancer amongst Ndi Anambra especially our women and hopefully lead to more early detections and positive actions that would dispel the erroneous impressions, rumours and beliefs that influence people’s lack of urgency in seeking medical help. My hope is that today many more persons would hear this message of hope and tell others thereby spreading the gospel which would ultimately help many avoid and survive the scourge of cancer.”
Ebelechukwu Obiano, Founder of Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) noted that this Walk for Hope awareness tallies with some of the programmes undertaken by her pet project to empower women and take care of the less privileged in the society, asserting that “as we travel through the nooks and crannies of Anambra State we carry the message of Hope against cancer to our women, mothers and sisters and teach them ways of testing themselves for early detection and prevention of cancer.”
According to Mrs. Obiano, CAFÉ is a non-governmental, nonpartisan organization with a vision to be the beacon of sustainable empowerment for women and the less privileged, has the mandate “to care for the less privileged and reduce women-child vulnerability while maintaining the dignity of persons with disabilities in Anambra state. CAFÉ also galvanizes resources for the uplifting of orphans, children in need and the physically challenged. CAFÉ attends to both skilled and non-skilled persons as well as indigent rural women in the177 communities of Anambra State.”
She urged the organizers and participants to take advantage of the overall improving infrastructure and conditions of life made possible by the administration of her husband, governor Obiano (Akpokuodike) to make it an annual event so that “we will attract more converts towards the cause of cancer prevention and eradication. As we look forward to next year’s edition of Walk for Hope to End Cancer, I urge you to make today’s Walk memorable – let’s make more converts! Spread the gospel and prevent cancer.”
In her remark, the National President of ASA Women USA, Dr. Mrs. Uche Umeh revealed that the idea of the programme came about following repeated manifestation of cancer in women mostly in the rural areas during the 2009 and 2010 as well as 2013 and 2014 ASA Women USA Medical Missions on cancer and maternal health, lamenting that indigent women lack access to fund for adequate health care.
Dr. Mrs. Umeh stated that ASA Women USA has acquired a parcel of land at the Anambra State University Teaching Hospital Amaku – Awka, for the construction and equipping of a world-class Cancer Treatment Centre covering construction and equipment cost to the tune between 80 to 100 million US Dollars.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Akabuike said the best way to prevent cancer was by early detection and treatment while the Managing Director of ABS, Mr. Uche Nworah assured the ASA Women USA and others participants of continued partnership of the Radio-Television Station to promote its cause and interests of raising awareness on cancer and building the cancer centre.
Also speaking, the Nigerian Coordinator of ASA Women USA, Hon. Dr. Bridget Obi expressed amazement at the massive turn out of people to identify with the event organized to create awareness on the cancer scourge, raise fund as well as rally support for the Ultra-Modern ASA Women Cancer Centre and commended the National President and her team for sacrificing their time, energy and money in ameliorating the plight of the sufferers of cancer.
She stated that the Walk for Hope to End Cancer would achieve its desired result in the shortest possible time and bring hope to patients especially the indigent ones.
The President of Breast Without Spot, one of the participating groups at the ceremony, Professor Ifeoma J. Okoye, a Professor of Radiology, disclosed that the walk was necessitated by ignorance of people to embrace early medical attention to prevent development of full blown cancer, with the result that cases of death from cancer were put, by her at 17, 000 daily.
She lamented that over 70,000 Nigerians including men travel to India especially for Cancer-related cases regretting that most sufferers seek for medical attention late when the disease had developed to the third and fourth stages of hopelessness.
Prof. Okoye, a Consultant radiology at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and Chairperson, Association for Good Clinical Practice in Nigeria gave hope that “cancer is curable” especially cervical cancer if detected early enough, stressing that there was need to upscale vaccine programme, embark on regular clinical examination and mammography as well as improve general awareness creation especially using the media of communication. The event attracted senior government officials, members of ASA Women USA, Breast without Spot, Federal Road Safety Corps, Security agencies, civil society organizations and the media.