Residents of Kakamega County have been urged to embrace Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination and routine cancer screening to enable early diagnosis and timely treatment.
Speaking during the launch of the county’s Malezi bora campaign at Kivaywa Primary school in Matete Sub County, Kakamega Governor’s wife Janet Barasa said the HPV vaccine administered to young girls is important in the prevention of cervical cancer.
While rubbishing claims that the vaccine is meant for family planning, Barasa said cervical cancer is on the rise worldwide and currently it is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in Kenya.
She said nine women die every day of cervical cancer and the number is likely to double by 2040 hence appealed to stakeholders particularly parents and community leaders to ensure all the female children in the targeted age group are vaccinated.
“Cervical cancer affects girls and women. In the ongoing campaign we are targeting girls aged 10-14 years with a two dose vaccine administered 6 months apart.
If we don’t vaccinate our female children against HPV and they get infected they will not be able to bear children in future,” she stated.
She told men that the virus causing cervical cancer in women is responsible for causing breast cancer in men hence they should not assume they are safe.
She said: “When our children are being vaccinated against HPV, we as parents should also go for screening. Let men go for breast and prostate cancer screening as women go for breast and cervical cancer screening.”
On the malezi bora campaign, Ms Barasa who is also the county nutrition champion, reminded mothers that it is imperative for them to ensure their children get a healthy upbringing in their first 1000 days.
She noted that the one week campaign is meant to accelerate uptake of health services targeting children aged five years and below, expectant mothers, lactating mothers and women of reproductive age.
During the period, according to Barasa, both the health workers and the community collaborate to ensure children get the necessary package of care to give them a health start in life.
She said children will be immunised, dewormed and be given vitamin A supplements.
The other services she said will include malaria prevention using insecticide treated nets, improved antenatal care and family planning and administration of HPV vaccines to adolescent girls.
Barasa noted that this year’s focus will be offering vitamin A supplements to all children aged 6 to 59 months as data indicates that mothers no longer take children for vitamin A supplementation at the health facilities.
“This is saddening because vitamin A is vital for growth and development of the child. When they do not receive the supplements and they don’t eat food rich in vitamin A, the children end up with vitamin A deficiency diseases.
“This is a public health problem and lack of the vitamin weakens the immunity of the children exposing them to diseases and early deaths. The deficiency is also the leading cause of preventable child blindness,” she said, urging mothers to ensure their children receive
the supplementation after every six months.
Barasa also emphasised on the importance of routine child immunisation saying it has been the most successful and cost effective public health intervention in history.
She said: “For instance, small pox was eliminated through immunisation and the prevalence of diseases such as poliomyelitis has been significantly reduced due to immunisation.
Generally, immunisation eliminates diseases which otherwise would have been very expensive for our health systems.
The vision of the immunisation agenda 2030 is a world where everyone everywhere at every age fully benefits from the vaccines for good health and well-being.”
Kakamega County Public Health Chief Officer George Mukodo who spoke earlier said cervical cancer is dangerous and if not detected early in most cases it leads to death.
He emphasised on the need of all parents to embrace the ongoing HPV vaccination in schools.
“The HPV virus causes cervical cancer. If a girl child is vaccinated at the tender age of 10-14 years she will be safe.
I am also urging mothers to go for frequent screening because if the disease is detected at an early stage it can be managed,”Mukodo said.
Lugari Sub County Medical Officer of Health Evans Sena noted that vitamin A deficiency is a public health concern affecting children and the ministry of health has put in place several strategies to curb the problem.
“Malezi bora campaign is one of the strategies aimed at enhancing the coverage of vitamin A supplementation. We have routine supplementation at the health facilities, but we still miss out on some children, thus not achieving the targeted coverage,” he explained.
By Melechezedeck Ejakait