By Chioma Obinna
By whatever name you may choose to call it, Providing Early Attention for Cervical Cancers Everywhere or P.E.A.C.E Campaign, as the pet project has been christened, what was on the mind of hundreds of women, children and men at the Holy Habitation Auditorium of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM, International Headquarters, along Gbagada Expressway, Lagos, for the free Medical Fair was to be among the beneficiaries of the Fair.
The fair organised by Women of Global Impact, WGI, in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs, offered free screening for breast and cervical cancer, free medical consultation, free drugs, body mass index, BMI, blood sugar test, blood pressure test, health talk, free eye examination treatment and general medical treatment.
Before now, many of the beneficiaries, mostly widows, orphans and indigent, who thronged the arena, must had waited patiently for a day like this which finally landed at their door steps stress free.
In an economy with increasing poverty, unemployment and sundry socioeconomic challenges, with no steady income to contend with the rising incidences of the burden of diseases such as cancer, organising free Medical Fair for vulnerable people, particularly women and children, is WGI’s own approach and effort at breaking the growing burden of cancer, among other non -communicable diseases women suffer from. Early detection and prompt medical attention are key in cancer management. But the unfortunate aspect of cancer situation in Nigeria is the fact that the country is not prepared for the scourge as it is not even covered in the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS.
For projects like PEACE, a brain child of Dr. Peace Okonkwo, the founder of WGI, there is need to educate women particularly on early detection and diagnosis of silent killers that can easily be treated thus improving maternal mortality rate. Flagged off on June 9, 2012, the project, which rolled out its 12th edition, last weekend in Lagos, according to Bishop Okonkwo, wife of presiding Bishop of TREM, came into being following the burden in her heart on how to reduce the number of women dying of cancer in Nigeria. “It all started when I attended a conference and in that conference they showed women that were dying of cervical cancer. After that I have a burden in my heart to be able to know how to help women,” she said.
“So the PEACE campaign was established to celebrate my 60th year and our target is to screen 10,000 women of cervical and breast cancers. As at date; we have been to villages and screened 4,500 women out of which 510 presented with early stage of cancer.”
PEACE campaign is also out to discourage and encourage Christians to do away of rejecting medical situation because knowing that you have a disease does not bring death.
“The objective of P.E.A.C.E is to create awareness for cervical cancer, provide free checkup at designated places and assist in the treatment of infected women. The mission is to reduce maternal mortality rate and to positively affect and torch the lives of women in particular for the better, enabling full realization of a women’s potentials and helping national development through empathy, trust, motivation and non-discriminatory support initiatives.
“There is need for Christians to go for health screening. On yearly basis every women should go for screening especially in this time of cancer. It is ignorance and fear that makes people to keep on rejecting it. Don’t live a life of lie. It is God that gave the doctors wisdom, when you know what is wrong with you; you will now know how to direct your prayers. I suggest that people should go for medical treatment because our faith is not equal.”
She called on government to invest more resources into health adding, “You can have everything in the world but if your health is not intact you cannot be happy.”
Grace Agbe, one of the 1,500 beneficiaries of the programme, who could barely contain her excitement, said: “I never knew I was hypertensive. With tears rolling down her cheek, she added; “I had been experiencing frequent headaches for which I have continued to take Panadol Extra.
I am being rushed to hospital now for further treatment. Is that how I would have died?”
Fifty – six year old Mrs. Margaret Obioha was no less excited as she hinted that she had been planning to screen for cervical cancer but she could not afford the money. I am happy today I was offered an opportunity. I am glad I am okay.”
Rev. Oluwayomi Uteh, National Coordinator, PEACE Campaign, was overwhelmed by the testimonies of the beneficiaries.