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Why Tanzania?

Posted by On April 21, 2014
By Andrea Kirsten-Coleman From time to time, we are asked how we choose the countries where we work. Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania are our current countries of focus. When we consider a country, first we establish how big the need is for women’s cancer. Then we confirm that the national Government and leadership are invested in the fight against women’s cancers. We work to identify local organizations that are ready to take on this fight. Our goal is to work where the need is great, but where the Government and indigenous groups can build and eventually sustain a nationwide effort. And that’s the case in all the countries where we work, including Tanzania. According to a recent article on ippmedia.com:
  • Tanzania has the highest reported number of cervical cancer cases in Eastern Africa;
  • One–tenth of the estimated 72,000 new cases and 56,000 cervical cancer deaths in sub-Saharan African countries reported for the year 2000 occurred in Tanzania; and
  • In 2009, cervical cancer accounted for 35.3 percent of all cancer patients at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, the only location treatment for advanced cancer is available in the country.

Big challenges like these require big solutions. Last month five of our local Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners in Tanzania gave us an example of how they are tackling cervical and breast cancer in a big way. The Medical Women Association of Tanzania (MEWATA),   WAMA Foundation, T-MARC Tanzania, and Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) along with the national Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, joined together under the patronage of Her Excellency, First Lady Salma Kikwete,  for a mass screening of women in the Mwanza Region, in the northern part of the country.  The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation supported this campaign as part of its contribution to Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. And the U.S. Government, through PEPFAR, donated 16 cryotherapy machines.

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Her Excellency, Salma Kikwete, First Lady of Tanzania, receives one of 16 cryotherapy machines donated by the U.S. Government through PEPFAR.

The results of the screening were life-changing and life-saving for the women who participated. Over the course of two days, over 5,000 women were screened for breast cancer, and over 3,800 underwent cervical screening. Twenty women with suspected breast cancer, and 26 with suspected cervical cancer, received referrals to regional hospitals for further diagnosis and treatment.

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 Her Excellency, Salma Kikwete, First Lady of Tanzania, addresses the crowd gathered before the screenings began.

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Women wait for cervical and/or breast screenings.

Because of this screening women from all over the region have taken charge of their health—a step that means that they can take care of their families and continue to contribute to society. Therefore, when we ask the question, “Why Tanzania?” the reason goes beyond the numbers. The answer lies in the faces of the women who now have a chance at securing their futures and those of their children and families. Andrea Kirsten-Coleman is Program Manager, Communications, Development and Partner Outreach, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.