COVID-19 has woken the world’s collective consciousness to the indispensability of equitable access to health for all.
But we know all too well of another global health nightmare that has, for many decades, both been one of the most visible examples of inequity in health, and one of the most readily preventable drivers of avoidable death in women worldwide – especially in Africa.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. In the highest risk countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, 75 per 100,000 women suffer from cervical cancer, compared to fewer than 10 women in low-risk nations.
If available actions are not taken, new cases of cervical cancer are expected to rise from 570,000, which was recorded in 2018, to 700,000 by 2030. The annual number of deaths is also projected to increase from 311,000 to 400,000. These alarming numbers represent a crisis for all of humanity, not just one of females.
As with COVID-19, inequity is at the core of the cervical cancer crisis: incidence of cervical cancer is nearly twice as high in low- and middle-income countries compared to high-income nations. Nearly 90% of cervical cancer deaths worldwide occur in low- and middle-income countries.
This tragedy is playing out especially in Africa, cutting the prospects and lives of many girls and women short. The impact of the disease on afflicted families and communities is significant, as it is on national progress in achieving the health and development targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the Global Day of Action for Cervical Cancer Elimination, we are uniting in a call for urgent action to make vaccines, tests and treatments accessible to all, so that no girl or woman, no matter where they live, how old they are or how much they earn, lacks access to these basic life-saving tools.