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United Kingdom supports Malawi’s cancer initiative

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By Richard Chirombo:

The United Kingdom (UK) has reiterated its commitment to helping countries such as Malawi to reduce cases of cervical cancer infection, contributing $2 billion (approximately K1.5 trillion) to vaccine alliance Gavi— which is providing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to girls aged between nine and 14 years in Malawi.

Last month, Malawi rolled-out an HPV vaccine to protect girls from cervical cancer, which kills 3,000 women in the country annually.

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“HPV vaccine is provided to Malawi through Gavi, to which UKAid has donated $2 billion so far,” the British High Commission indicates on its page.

Gavi draws resources from 44 donors, among them the UK.

British High Commission Communications Officer, Benson Linje, said the UK’s contribution amounts to a quarter of all donor contributions.

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“UK contribution is over 25 percent of the all-donor contributed sum,” Linje said Tuesday.

Gavi indicates, on its website, that it collected $2,142.5 million in donations and pledges between 2016 and September 30 2018, in a programme that spans from 2016 to 2020.

The website further indicates that the alliance received $1,377.7 million in direct funding while $575.6 million was channelled to the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIM) and $189.2 million was in form of Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

IFFIm proceeds are allocated over five year periods coinciding with Gavi’s strategic periods.

“The UK is a longstanding supporter and funder of international development and in March 2015 passed parliamentary legislation committing the government to spend 0.7percent of GNI [gross national income] — a measure of a country’s income— on international development,” reads part of Gavi’s statement.

November 2015 UKAid spending review strategy, titled ‘Tackling Global Challenges in The National Interest’ set out Department for International Development (DFID) and other ministries’ priorities as follows: strengthening global peace, security and governance; strengthening resilience and response to crises; promoting global prosperity; tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable.

DFID’s 2016 Multilateral Development Review, which assesses the major multilateral agencies it funds, indicates that Gavi was one of the top performers.

As one of the alliance’s six original donors and one of two donor countries that support Gavi through all three funding channels— namely direct grants, IFFIm and AMC— the UK has pledged to contribute $2.85 billion to IFFIM between 2007 and 2029, after contributing $137 million in direct contributions between 2000 and 2010.

In 2011, the then prime minister David Cameron hosted Gavi’s replenishment conference in London, where the UK pledged an additional Great British Pound (GBP)814 million, of which GBP50 million was allocated to support the Gavi Matching Fund for Immunisation to incentivise private sector engagement.

In 2014, the UK committed GBP 30 million to help Gavi support the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategy and Plan 2013- 2018. Most recently, in January 2015, at the Gavi pledging conference in Berlin, Germany, it committed an additional GBP 1 billion to Gavi – GBP 200 million a year from 2016-2020.

Malawi is expected to spend $22 million (about K15.884 billion) on the cervical cancer vaccination campaign.

Health and Population Minister, Atupele Muluzi, said recently that the vaccination campaign would see 240 nine-year-old girls being vaccinated, costing the government $5 million (about K3.6 billion).

A single dose of the vaccination costs K100,000 and a girl takes two doses within a period of six months.

The campaign is being implemented under the ministry’s Expanded Immunisation Programme, which seeks to promote prevention of diseases through immunisation.

“It is sad that, despite being preventable, cervical cancer remains the leading cause of death among women in Malawi. It is more worrisome that Malawi is one of the countries that register more cervical cancer cases in the world,” Muluzi said.

In 2018, over 4,000 women tested positive to cervical cancer in Malawi, Ministry of Health and Population records indicate.

Out of the over 4,000 women, 2,800 died between January and December 2018.

“I was shocked to learn that among the women who were diagnosed with the virus that causes cervical cancer (HPV) in Mangochi District last year, there was a girl aged 15 years. This is shocking and we, as a country, should be worried and start working.

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