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Assault on cancer

Maisha Hutton

Maisha Hutton

Non-Governmental Organisations across the region will begin a move next month to get regional governments to look seriously at the issue of cervical cancer, the second leading cause of death in the Caribbean.

Led by the locally-based umbrella body, Healthy Caribbean Coalition, an e-petition is set to be launched utilising technologies across the region to gain 250,000 signatures as the starting point to drive action on the part of governments and hopefully with the assistance of CARICOM.

Manager of HCC, Maisha Hutton told Barbados TODAY this morning in an interview that one of the decisions coming out of a workshop of NGOs from the organisation’s 16 participating member states, particularly dealing with advocacy, was developing a Caribbean cancer network.

“Another big item coming out of the e-health section was the development of a cervical cancer e-petition, an electronic petition for the reason and again everything is participatory, so we are developing buy-in, ensuring there is ownership right from the outset. So we asked them based on their own country situation, what are the priority areas with regard to cervical cancer that would apply to all of the 16 countries, and possibly other countries that didn’t attend [the workshop].

“What they came up with was making cervical cancer screening accessible for all women, whether we are talking about affordable, whether we are talking about equity issues, distance issues, whatever the issue in the country is, ensuring that women in each of these countries have access to cervical cancer screening, whether it pap smears or for example in Haiti they are actually screening for HPV. So the umbrella e-petition aimed at heads of state across the Caribbean, including the dutch and french overseas territories was to increase access for women,” she noted.

Hutton added that when they dug deeper into the issues of individual countries, however, there were specific demands.

“So the language of the petition has been developed. We are now seeking funding to support the actual launch and the promotion around it so once we launch it we have funds to promote it in country and regionally to increase the number of signatures we get electronically. Our aim is 250,000 signatures over the course of two to three months and we are fine-tuning that time right now; we are hoping to launch early June,” she said.

The original plan, she noted, was to launch the petition this month but they had encountered a slight challenge in getting more NGOs on board and were in the process of adding additional bodies to the core of those supporting the campaign.

It was hoped the campaign would be driven by the 20 NGOs that attended the workshop and agreed to the establishment of a cancer network, she said.

“But we are thinking as we move forward to get as much buy-in as possible…,” Hutton added. “We wanted to get, in-country, as many NGOs as possible, women’s NGOs, health, any NGOs that have an interest in cervical cancer to sign on so when we launch this we can say it is supported by PAHO, Population Services International and a vast array of national NGOs.”

“This is ground-breaking for us because it is not only going to be promoting advocacy at the level of these NGOs, but also creating public interest and individual advocacy from Caribbean People. Hopefully they will see this as important and jump on the Internet and say we will demand our governments to make changes in this area.” (LB)

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