With one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection and cervical cancer, sexual and reproductive health is a major concern in Zimbabwe.
The government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday launched a program to help improve the health of women around the country.
The governments of Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom are providing about $91 million to launch what officials are calling the Integrated Support Program for Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV prevention program.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Henry Madzorera thanked the donors and pledged his ministry will work closely with the United Nations Population Fund to ensure the money is well utilized.
Madzorera said the program will help reduce deaths in childbirth and from cervical cancer, fight gender-based violence and ensure access to family planning for Zimbabwean women.
He said he was particularly pleased that the facility is going to focus on fighting cervical cancer, which is becoming a serious problem in the country.
Madzorera said many women die of cervical cancer because they lack knowledge and due to the fact that cervical cancer screening is expensive.
He announced that the program will pay for all women to be screened at government hospitals for no fee. Funds will also be availed for a public awareness campaign to promote cervical cancer screening.
Select city council clinics and government health institutions will roll out a new cervical cancer screening method called visual inspection with acetic acid that immediately gives a result. Parirenyatwa and Mpilo Central Hospital already use this method.
UN Population Fund country representative Dr. Basile Tambashi, said the programmes are part of his organization’s commitment to improving women’s health in Zimbabwe.
Seaking at the same launch, UK Aid Chief Jane Rintoul said the British government is also committed to supporting Zimbabwe’s efforts to improve women’s health, particularly preventing gender-based violence.
The program is expected to run for four years and will contribute to the government’s efforts to meet its Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal health and reducing HIV infection.