By: Almamo Kamasso
Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady has said that Gambia is making a steady progress in the fight against breast and cervical cancers despite high infection rates registered across countries within the sub region.
Speaking at the Seminar of First Ladies from member countries of the Africa Group of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Cancer held in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso from 1st – 2nd August 2018, Mrs. Barrow said that despite these high figures – 80% of which is due to late diagnosis and treatment– breast cancer is a disease that can be prevented and treated when detected early.
Outlining that the Gambia is steadily winning the fight against breast cancer, the First Lady announced that most of the medical facilities necessary to diagnose breast and other cancers are now available at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul. Lady Barrow explained that health care professionals throughout the Gambia are always on hand to provide support and counseling on this deadly disease to people that are in need.
Despite the giant strides being registered in the push against breast cancer, she observes that there are challenges to be overcome. “Unfortunately, The Gambia, like many poor countries, is neither able to provide affordable cancer services, nor meet the increasing demand for such services. In fact, more than half of the OIC countries lack the capacity to tackle chronic diseases or address their major causes,” the First Lady said.
Giving the high financial cost involved in accessing cancer services or treatment, particularly in developing countries, she explained that her foundation – Fatou Bah-Barrow Foundation – decided to take a stance and complement government’s efforts by supporting cancer treatment services and awareness raising activities in The Gambia. “There is an urgent need to support poor countries in Africa to overcome major challenges linked to both detection and treatment services,” she emphasized. “Health systems in poor countries are too weak to support the basic care and services linked with cancer. A significant increase in investments involving a broad range of partners is necessary to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and strengthen national health care systems.”