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Invest in Us

Article by Doyin Oluwole July 10, 2012 //   7 minute read

President and Mrs. Bush led an international delegation of volunteers and leaders associated with the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon to Zambia and Botswana between June 29 and July 6, 2012. The purpose of the trip was to meet with government, health and community leaders and to assist them in renovating a rural health center in Zambia to be used for cervical cancer screening, announce the designation of a world class Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDRZ) into the first African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancer Control, and to launch Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in Botswana. The trip was a huge success; in President Bush’s own words “the commitment is real.” Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners’ additional commitment to Zambia included Merck’s donation of 180,000 doses of Gardasil vaccine to cover 25,000 girls over two years; GSK’s donation of Cervarix vaccine for 10,000 girls, and morphine sulphate to boost palliative care; Susan G. Komen’s $200,000 commitment to develop awareness raising curriculum for various cadres of health workers; AirBorne Lifeline’s support for air transportation; and National Breast Cancer Foundation’s funding for a Health Promotions Manager for five years. In Zambia, a dilapidated health clinic was reroofed, rewired, repainted, renovated, landscaped and equipped for cervical cancer screening and treatment through a See and Treat program with VIA and cryotherapy. Before the ribbon cutting ceremony on July 3, more than 80 women had arrived awaiting screening.  Within four hours, nearly half of them were screened for cervical cancer by newly trained health workers, supported by an experienced mentor. Of the women screened, more than 1 in 5 had abnormal findings.  Fortunately, 43% of the women with abnormal findings could be treated on the spot with a simple, effective and inexpensive treatment, cryotherapy, which removes the pre-cancerous cells.  Women with precancerous lesions too large to be treated through cryotherapy were referred to the nearby local hospital for treatment. “This act of compassion on the part of President and Mrs. Bush has given us hope in Kabwe, and we will forever remember them,” said one woman waiting to be screened.   “This is a dream come true,” said Dr Abel Kabalo, the Kabwe District Medical Officer, as he watched the women come into the renovated building. The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners who witnessed the event in Kabwe were encouraged that the opening of Ngungu health center will increase access to services for women and save many lives. Speaking on behalf of the Government of Zambia at the designation of the Center of Excellence at the University Teaching Hospital, the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Joe Kasonde reiterated his vision of a “cervical cancer-free Zambia.” The First Lady, Her Excellency, Dr. Christine Kaseba praised President and Mrs. Bush for investing in women because “investing in women is smart economics.”

“Just tell me what to do in Zambia, and I will do it,” said Johnathan Miller, CEO and Founder of AirBorne Lifeline. “We will not only airfreight nitrous oxide cylinders, we are ready to transport specialists to provide the much-needed services at distant locations.”

“We must help the nurses to stay well and prevent them from burning out. We will find innovative ways of getting more hands to ease their workload,” said Kevin Hail, the COO of National Breast Cancer Foundation. “Merck and GSK will jointly support Zambia in its efforts to vaccinate young girls to achieve a ’cervical cancer-free Zambia’,” said Colleen McGuffin, Merck’s Vice President for Health Engagement and Customer Value. “Where a woman lives should not decide whether she lives” declared Elizabeth Thompson, President of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We are ready to invest in the health workers to prevent women from dying from breast cancer.” “We will work with the government of Zambia to develop a sustainable palliative care program with trained health workers” said Allan Pamba, GSK’s Director of Global Access. In Botswana, President Bush praised the government for the tremendous success it has had in addressing HIV/AIDS and expressed hope that they will apply the lessons to combat cervical cancer: “We are here today to launch Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in Botswana because we believe to whom much is given, much is expected; and all human life is precious. We cannot save a woman from dying of HIV/AIDS and leave her to die of cervical cancer which is preventable.” The US Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle Gavin, announced a $3 million “See and Treat” program to save lives through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Speaking on behalf of the government of Botswana, the Minister of Health, Hon. Min. Rev. Dr. John Seakgosing said, “We thank President and Mrs. Bush, the US government and the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partners for their investment in the women of Botswana. We assure you that the money will be put to good use to save women’s lives.” “Our population is small, and every life counts. We do not want to lose any woman to cervical cancer,” said Dr. Mosweu, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health. In her remarks, Dr. Doreen Masire, the Director of the U-Penn Cervical Cancer program said “the launching of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in Botswana will enable us expand cervical and breast cancer services to Botswana women within and outside Gaborone.” She called on the partners to “invest in the people of Botswana to save women’s lives.” Dr. Groesbeck Parham, co-director of the African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancer Control summed a key purpose of the PRRR partnership  and the trip when he said,  “We have the vehicle and the engine” to run, but still require “fuel”.   The “fuel” he referred to was not charity, but investment. As he explained, “Invest in us and your investment will have good returns.  Together, we will save women’s lives.” This post was written by Doyin Oluwole, Founding Executive Director of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon based at the George W. Bush Institute.

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