Written by Heather Brooks
Thank you for helping Lifeline Malawi to battle against a killer disease for women in Malawi. Shockingly, Malawi has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the World. In Malawi, cervical cancer accounts for 37% of all new female cancers each year, about 4,145 patients, and about 2,905 women will die. Two contributing risk factors for cervical cancer are HIV and HPV infections. HIV prevalence in the country is 10.6% of adults aged 15–64 years. There is no real data on what percentage of the populations harbours the cervical HPV infection.
Lifeline Malawi is saving lives by identifying this treatable disease before it becomes untreatable. One way we do this is by screening women for cervical cancer at the LM Health Centre, or at outreach screening clinics in the community. Every woman from the age 25 to 49 is to be screened at least every three years. And those at higher risk, will be tested every year. Due to a lack of information or incentive, patients need to be urged to participate and this can be a challenge. We usually see a rise in those seeking cervical screening when there is a death due to cervical cancer in the community.
Lifeline Malawi is also saving lives by providing the HPV vaccine at primary schools, targeting young girls who we assume are not yet sexually active. It is given to those 9 to 13 years old, nationwide. We have the biggest success giving the vaccine at schools where teachers are involved in educating both the girls and their families. Our challenge is the resistance within the community to vaccines, many believing that this vaccination is a contraceptive and will prevent girls from getting pregnant.
Sadly, many of the cervical cancer cases we see at Lifeline Malawi cannot be cured, About a quarter of LM’s palliative care patients have cervical cancer. The majority of the women have failed to come to the clinic in good time. Most of them come when the cancer has already spread.
Lukia Uzeni is one such patient. She lived with her daughter whose thirteen-year-old son was the bread winner for the family. He is a shepherd boy for cattle and does not attend school. Lifeline helped Lukia with food and the cost of a minibus to Salima and to Lifeline Malawi for treatment. When Steve Russell and Heather Brooks were in Malawi in November 2021, they went to visit Lukia with the Reach Out and Touch Team at her home, to comfort her by bringing her food, sharing a message of hope from the Word of God, and praying for her. We were sad the hear that she passed away in December 2021.
Please help us to prevent this disease from taking more lives, by donating to Lifeline Malawi. With your donation, you make it possible for us to employ more staff to be trained in screening, and to initiate education and testing campaigns and outreaches that will result in more women being tested. You will be helping, too, to support those with cervical cancer who need transportation funds, supplemental food, and you will allow LM to train more staff in palliative care. And of course, it also helps us with the visits of the Outreach -and Touch Team to show the love of Jesus to the patients and their families.
Agnes comes from the Ngodzi area and has worked with Lifeline Malawi since 2005. She is a widow and has a fifteen year old son who is a a boarding school, so that he will receive a good education. Agnes joined LM as a patient attendant, helping as a cleaner and as a patient attendant at the RoseTree Maternity Unit. Agnes proved herself to be a good learner, cleverly picking up computer and data recording skills. With training, she became a pharmacy assistant and recently became the data clerk in the LM Health Centre’s HIV clinic.
She likes working for LM because it helps her support her son’s education so he can go to university. She also appreciates having an income to help her sister and her family. Agnes says that LM is her husband, looking after her needs.