First Ladies of Ghana and Mozambique join UK launch of End Cervical Cancer Now campaign
London, 4 June 2014 – The Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) will invest US$ 25 million in the GAVI Alliance to protect girls and women in developing countries from the leading cause of cervical cancer. The funding will be matched by the UK's Department for International Development through the GAVI Matching Fund.
CIFF chief executive Michael Anderson announced the new funding at the UK launch of the End Cervical Cancer Now campaign, held at the Houses of Parliament today. The event was attended by H.E. Lordina Dramani Mahama, the First Lady of Ghana, and H.E. Dr Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza, the first Lady of Mozambique as well as GAVI Alliance CEO Dr Seth Berkley and Baroness Northover.
Cervical cancer claims the lives of more than a quarter of a million women every year with the overwhelming majority of deaths occurring in the world's poorest countries. This new funding will support the GAVI Alliance to purchase the human papillomavirus vaccine which offers protection against the infection which causes the cancer.
"Our investment in the GAVI Alliance will have a major impact on the lives of women and families in developing countries," said Michael Anderson. "HPV vaccine brings a double benefit for adolescent girls. Not only does it protect them from a terrible disease but it gives them the opportunity to access health services and engage with healthcare professionals, in many cases for the first time in a number of years."
"Cervical cancer is a devastating disease that kills women at exactly the time when their families need them most," said Dr Berkley. "I am pleased that CIFF is showing incredible support for our goal of reaching 30 million girls in 40 countries with this vital vaccine by 2020."
The End Cervical Cancer Now campaign began in New York in September 2013. The African First Ladies spoke of their personal commitment to the campaign and to ensuring that women in Ghana and Mozambique had access to lifesaving cancer prevention and treatment.
Both Ghana and Mozambique have begun HPV vaccine demonstration projects with GAVI Alliance support to target girls in specific districts with the HPV vaccine with the option of applying for national rollouts if the projects are successful.
"Every day, 10 women die of cervical cancer in Mozambique," said Dr Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza. "I've seen the suffering these deaths brings to families. It is a tragedy for Mozambique to lose wives, sisters, mothers and grandmothers to a disease which can be largely prevented with a simple vaccine. The tide is changing in our fight against cervical cancer. In May this year, Mozambique launched a HPV vaccine demonstration project with GAVI's support to pave the way for every girl in our country to be vaccinated."
"Like many countries in Africa, cervical cancer is the leading cancer killer of women in Ghana, said Lordina Dramani Mahama. "Many women come to seek medical care too late or can't get treatment. I've seen women suffering terribly from this disease, their fates sealed by the terrible scourge. Vaccines are very important to my country to help prevent the disease before it strikes. GAVI's support to immunise girls in Ghana will help them grow into healthy women with a bright future."
An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer, of which more than 85% live in low-income countries, according to the latest statistics published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are expected to rise to 416,000 by 2035, with over 95% expected to be women living in poor countries.
HPV vaccine offers the best protection against cervical cancer for women living in developing countries, many of whom do not have access to cervical cancer screening and treatment. Unlike most other vaccines, which are administered to children under the age of five, HPV vaccines are given to girls aged between nine and 13. This is to ensure they are protected against HPV before they become sexually active.
HPV vaccination programmes also offer a platform for adolescent girls to engage with health care professionals and access additional health services at a crucial stage in their lives. Many women in developing countries do not have any contact with health workers from when they are born until they become mothers themselves.
The GAVI Alliance is currently supporting 23 countries that are either undertaking or have received approval for HPV programmes.
In 2013, GAVI Alliance secured a record low price of US$ 4.50 per dose of HPV vaccine, meaning that a full three doses course would cost US$ 13.50. WHO's strategic advisory group of experts (SAGE) committee on immunisation recently agreed that a two doses course offers sufficient protection, meaning that a full course would cost US$ 9.