EANCDA Awards Best NCD Journalists, Empowers Media

Best journalists pose with their trophies during the inaugural East Africa Media on NCDs Awards, held in Kampala on March 5th, 2021.

Enhancing media’s capacity to create awareness and champion the NCDs agenda in East Africa

The EANCDA has awarded the best journalists in the region in its inaugural East Africa Media on NCDs Awards, aimed at recognizing the role played by journalists/reporters in championing NCDs and driving the NCD agenda through covering and reporting on NCDs trends in East Africa. The awards also aim at strengthening the East Africa Journalists Network and empowering journalists to continue championing NCDs issues. At the first ever awards ceremony held on 5th March, 2021 at Hotel Africana, in Kampala, Uganda, Ms Aidah Munzatsi of Krik TV of Kenya emerged the best TV journalist, while Ms Agnes Kyotalengeire of The New Vision (Uganda) was declared the best Print journalist. Mr Davis Ddungu of CBS FM (Uganda) scooped the best Radio journalist accolade, while Ms. Lydia Atieno of The New Times (Rwanda) emerged the best online journalist. Six other journalists also won national awards for their respective countries of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zanzibar.

Dr. Charles Oyo Akiya, the Commissioner for the NCDs Department in Uganda’s Ministry of Health, was the chief guest.

Best East Africa NCDs Journalist (Print, TV, Radio and Online)

NAMEMEDIA HOUSECOUNTRYAWARD CATEGORY
Aidah MunzatsiKrik TVKenyaBest East Africa NCDs Journalist (TV)
Agnes KyotolengerireThe New VisionUgandaBest East Africa NCDs Journalist (Print)
Davis DdunguCBS FMUgandaBest East Africa NCDs Journalist (Radio)
Lydia AtienoThe New TimesRwandaBest East Africa NCDs Journalist (online)
Egide NdayiragijeNderagakura RadioBurundiBest Journalist at National Level
Veronica Mrema RomwaldJamvri La HabariTanzaniaBest Journalist at National Level
Abdalla PanduZinjibar TV OnlineZanzibarBest Journalist at National Level
Pauline UngajiNews IndepthKenyaBest Journalist at National Level
Lynn KomugishaUrban TelevisionUgandaBest Journalist at National Level
Rosine UmurungiIsango Star TelevisionRwandaBest Journalist at National Level

Engaging Media in NCDs Advocacy

Since its inception, NCD Alliance East Africa has been striving for an East African Region that is free from Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The organization has undertaken combined efforts to combat the NCD epidemic by putting NCDs at the centre of all East African health and development policies through targeted advocacy, programmatic work and outreach.

NCD Alliance East Africa has also emphasized awareness creation and advocacy as effective tools to pass on messages and to reach out to intended publics.  The need to enhance public outreach on NCDs prevention, management and control has been the organization’s number one priority hence incorporating media as a tool for advocacy and awareness creation.

A reflection on the activities of previous years indicates that most Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in East Africa and Africa as a region, have majorly depended on medical practitioners and advocates for NCD advocacy and awareness creation. One of the challenges with this approach was that medical professionals who are the main advocates, were not well-equipped to communicate the issues and the science behind NCDs in a style that is simple, appealing and understood by the masses or ordinary citizens.

Thus, the conversations on NCDs in general remained largely technical with complex jargon and limited space for raising voices of People Living with NCDs.

In addition, the current COVID 19 situation with its immense impact has created a wider gap on how public receive and send information; stressing media as a stronger tool of communication and advocacy and as a major source of information among NCD CSOs at national, regional and global levels.

Why media in NCDS advocacy

Media thrives on attention-grabbing and personal stories. It mastered the art of developing emotionally compelling stories with a humanistic perspective. Media has the power to inform a large sections of the population in a variety of accessible ways (Oronje et al, 2011). It also has the power to change perceptions and contribute to social and behavior change by setting the agenda and focusing public interest on a particular issue (Happer and Philo 2013). There is therefore a great potential for media impact and an opportunity to raise public consciousness because NCDs are becoming an emotive public issue due to the fearsome nature and increasing rampancy of the diseases in East Africa.

As Oronje (et al 2011) notes, media has powerful potential to impact on awareness and advocacy if engaged in a planned way.  However, the media lacks the capacity to digest medical information and the motivation to run health-related stories.  Most journalists are always struggling to find interesting content to publish on NCDs and health generally. To bridge this gap, a systematic and sustained mutual capacity development effort was organized to train journalists on how to tell NCD stories as well as developing interesting media content by converting NCD discourses into compelling personal experiences of PLWNCDs. The training sessions also focused on building mutual relationships between journalists, advocates, experts and People Living with NCDs. NCD advocates were also trained to articulate NCD issues in a simple and attractive way for public communication.

Major achievements

Capacity Development workshops: NCD Alliance East Africa has built the capacity of 150 journalists within the East African Region to tell compelling stories on NCDs. The trainings were geared towards enhancing media knowledge on NCDs and other related health issues; understanding the role of Governments in prevention and management of NCDs as well as strengthening media relations with key stakeholders. The trainings also introduced media to NCDs research and information and other related issues such as; Universal Health Coverage, Infectious Diseases (HIV and COVID- 19), nutrition, and climate change. They also highlighted the bigger information gaps that limit journalists to write and report on accountability process, policies formulation and resource base and political perspectives on NCDs prevention and control.

Increase in media output – A noticeable increase in information circulation on NCDs among the publics was realized. This was achieved through vibrant conversations and engagements that were held on TV and Radio stations and other respective media platforms.

This is summarized below:

Indicator between July 2020-November 2021TargetAchievement%achieved against target
Number of news articles30Over 100
Number of guest appearances1035270%
Op-ed newspaper commentary305167%
Number of NCD themed TV and radio content0205250%
Number of Special features on PLWNCDs0515140%

Building an East Africa Journalists Network on NCDs: A concrete East African Journalist Network on NCDs was developed with a data base of 35 journalists so far, from the six Member Alliances. The purpose of the network is to: improve media content on NCDs and other related health issues with a focus on having in-depth and well-balanced analyses; ensuring that enough space and airtime is allocated to NCDs content, reflect on the social responsibility role of media in holding Governments accountable to citizens; and last but not least, prioritizing stories and lived experiences of People Living with NCDs

Documentation lived experiences of PLWCDS: Media amplified the voices of PLWNCDs with the aim of tasking policy makers to priorities NCD prevention and control. Special features on circumstances under which PLWNCDs live, the health care conditions, access to medication and the Governments’ responses towards NCDs prevention and Control have been documented and published.

Development of sustainable media programmes on NCDs: Several programs such as the physical fitness show in Rwanda has been initiated and incorporated in the regular operations of four media houses (radio and TV). In the same spirit, more content has been developed and incorporated into the different TV and radio programs. Programmes including; Health Nuggets in Kenya, Mwasuze Mutya (NTV) and Ebyo’bulamu (Radio Simba) in Uganda have led to strong conversations on NCDs.

Breaking the Language-communication barrier: In the East African region, 99% of the communication materials produced on NCDs are communicated or written in official languages (English and French). This has been one of the key barriers to information access and reach because the largest portion of the population in the region is more comfortable with local dialects. In addition, there has not been any efforts to translate and repackage the scientific NCDs information into simple formats that are easily understandable by the public.    However, media has been handy in toning down the complex scientific language, repackaging the information in a manner that is attractive to the audience without distorting its meaning. With its ability to communicate using some of the local languages, the media has ensured that messages reach the intended targets. The main local languages that have been used include; Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Luganda, and Kirundi.

What are some of the challenges met?

In the pursuit of enhancing media advocacy for NCDs, strict political and operative environment of media houses that are driven by business and profit was the biggest challenge. Another critical challenge was the multi-linguistic nature of the region with very limited usage of the major official languages. Most communities prefer to communicate in local languages, which means that in a country like Uganda with over 50 languages, reaching the population is still a serious challenge. The NCDs network has not fully embraced the communications world, hence access to information and other relevant documents is also a big challenge.

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Breast Cancer: Pink October Roots For Early Screening

Rwanda NCDs stakeholders at the launch of PLWNCDs

Experts stress ‘Love Yourself (IKUNDE),’ ‘Know Yourself (IMENYE),’ ‘Get Checked (ISUZUMISHE)’ as effective breast cancer control measures

Breast Cancer is a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). According to Rwanda Cancer Registry, Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women.

Globally, breast cancer accounts for one in four cancer cases. In 2020, there were about 684,996 deaths from breast cancer.

When breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is very high because treatment is available. Unfortunately, 50% – 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage in many low-and middle-income countries. This increases the cost of treatment and makes it usually incurable.

To amplify the message of saving lives from breast cancer, October is celebrated as a National Breast Cancer month where people from all over the world recognise the seriousness of this condition and show their support for patients affected by breast cancer.

In solidarity with this cause, Rwanda NCD Alliance joined Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA) and launched the Breast Cancer Awareness Month on 7th October, 2021 at the Pink and Wellness House. The event was graced by a group of People Living with NCDs, Breast Cancer Survivors, and other partners.

In her address, Phillipa Kibugu Decuir, the founder of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa, noted with concern that many women are unaware of breast cancer until it becomes fatal. “Many women do not have any clue about breast cancer till it becomes deadly. They must be rescued, educated, and empowered to take charge of their health. They must become aware of the importance of early detection as it saves lives. Knowledge is power,” she said.

She reminded participants of the three critical elements in breast cancer prevention that everyone should be familiar with and prioritise in order to live a healthy lifestyle: “Love Yourself (IKUNDE), Know Yourself (IMENYE), Get Checked (ISUZUMISHE).”

She also appealed to Rwandans to embrace the Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa’s innovative approach to raising breast cancer awareness countrywide. “We are challenging all stakeholders and institutions to place our giant 180x90cm Pink Ribbon Symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness in their respective workplaces, where it will be visible to employees and customers. This challenge aims to have 50% (or more) of Rwandans aware of breast cancer and the importance of early detection by October 2022. The Pink Ribbon is the Breast Cancer symbol, and it reminds us that early detection saves lives,” she remarked.

In the same spirit, Nyarurenzi Health Centre in the City of Kigali, on 13th October 2021, launched the Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Screening Campaign. The event under the theme, Get screened early for cervical and breast cancer; they are treatable and curable, involved the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre and partners including Rwanda NCD Alliance, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Partners In Health (PIH/IMB), International Cancer Institute (ICI), Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA), healthcare professionals, community health workers, and local leaders from the district level. During the event, people with lived experiences of breast cancer took part in awareness activities and mobilised a number of people to participate in the campaign, especially for voluntary breast cancer and cervical cancer screening for early detection.

Courtesy of the consultative engagements by Our Views, Our Voices Initiative that have been undertaken, people living with breast cancer shared their lived experiences. Majority of them emphasised that breast cancer is typically detected at a late stage, necessitating breast surgery. As a result, they advocated for the decentralisation of breast cancer screening services at the health centre level in order to improve early detection.  They highlighted that some healthcare professionals are no longer performing palpation to detect breast tumours. They advocated for a healthcare system with well-trained healthcare personnel who provide equitable services.

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Ugandan MPs endorse motion for free access to NCDs treatment

Making care available at public health facilities to save citizens from dependence on expensive drugs from private pharmacies or using ineffective herbal concoctions

Debate on the floor of the Parliament of Uganda on October 21, 2021, shifted from politics to health issues when a member moved a motion for a resolution of Parliament urging the Government to provide free drugs to diabetic and hypertensive patients.

Hon. Patience Nkunda, the Woman MP for Kanungu District, said the burden of treating NCDs was becoming unbearable for citizens.

 She said 40% of Uganda’s public health centers do not stock drugs to treat chronic diseases, yet they are too expensive for an average Ugandan to afford.

While seconding the motion, Tororo Municipality MP, Hon. Apolo Yeri Ofwono urged the Government to procure and avail these drugs to the health centers through the National Medical Stores (NMS) instead of forcing citizens to buy them from the private clinics or resorting to herbal concoctions.

While supporting the motion, Butambala Woman MP Hon. Aisha Kabanda narrated what she goes through treating her relatives suffering from cancer and diabetes. She called for extensive research on NCDs to find local solutions.

The MPs requested for the building of capacities at low-level health facilities to tackle NCDs by equipping them with screening machines and training health workers to offer efficient NCD services.

There was also a suggestion to introduce a National Physical Activity policy to address the NCD risk factor of physical inactivity. They said that roads especially in the city need to be modified to cater to cyclists and pedestrians to aid policy enforcement.

NCD is a national burden

NCDs are non-infectious health conditions that result in long-term health consequences and often create a need for long-term treatment and care.

NCDs are one of the leading causes of morbidity, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and mortality worldwide. Annually, NCDs kill 41 million people globally. DALYs due to NCDs are reported to have increased by more than 80% between 2000 and 2019. In 2016, over 97, 600 deaths were attributed to NCDs translating into 1 in 3 deaths annually in Uganda [4].

The initial formal priority to NCDs was in 2006 following the establishment of the NCD prevention and control program by the Ministry of Health (MOH). Since then, Uganda has continued to develop NCD policies majorly focusing on preventive measures tackling modifiable risk factors e.g. unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use.

In 2010, the National Health Policy prioritized NCDs in the Health Sector Development Plan though there were inadequate resources that constrained the NCD Desk’s ability to coordinate NCDs services effectively.

In 2011, the Parliamentary Forum on NCDs was formed for legislators to take advantage of their legislative, budgeting, and oversight roles for effective national health regulation. Furthermore, the forum’s strategic objectives incorporated the resolutions of the United Nations 19-20 September 2011 Summit in New York; advocating policy formulation, creating awareness of NCDs within parliament, and lobbying for resources to support all functionalities of NCD bodies and agencies in Uganda.

The forum has had several accomplishments such as; enacting a Tobacco Control Act, Alcohol Consumption Bill being drafted, advocating for physical activity facilities at workplaces, sensitizing masses on healthy feeding; shifting from sugar, fats, and salty diets to more fruits and vegetables, advocating early screening for cervical and prostate cancers.

The Tobacco Control Act, enacted in 2015, was to address the risk factor of tobacco use yet the tobacco manufacturing industry has continued to be a threat to the Act.

In 2019, the efforts of MOH working with partners, Uganda NCD Alliance (UNCDA) inclusive, elevated the NCDs Desk to a Department of NCDs and Mental Health with two divisions: lifestyle and mental health and substance abuse. This is expected to increase funding, power, and decision-making capacity to develop and implement NCD programs and policies.

Other policies focusing on preventive measures i.e. physical activity, nutrition labeling, restriction on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, fiscal measures on sugar-sweetened beverages, and reformulation of foods are underway, thus deserting NCD treatment and palliative care.

Civil Society Organisations have supported and collaborated with the Government in drafting the above policies. UNCDA, in its advocacy work, has supported the introduction of a National Cancer Register and the establishment of an NCD Group in Parliament.

Other Parliamentary proposals

On NCDs awareness, MPs proposed the annual Parliament Health Week to be used as an avenue to educate the public about NCDs. They continued to request for free a radio talk show for health workers to sensitize the public about NCDs.

They called for the strengthening of the existing Multi-Sectoral Health Action Plan for NCDs and several related collaborations with Non-Governmental Organizations and development partners to support the Government in creating public awareness on NCDs.

The legislators also suggested that the existing and amended health policies should be followed up by the leaders to ensure proper enforcement. VHTs were recommended to be utilized to detect these NCDs at the earliest stages and NCDs to be included in the school syllabus.

They insisted that if such proposals are considered, the program of NCDs prevention and control will be uplifted hence reducing the NCDs incidence and mortality in Uganda.

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A Reflection Into Situation of PLWNCDs Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

A medical officer checks the blood pressure of a patient. Physical contact makes treatment and care for NCDs a challenge amid COVID-19.

A painful tale of huge costs of treatment amid restrictions on travel and stigma

Generally, people living with Non-Communicable Diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, breast cancer, heart diseases, and others, need uninterrupted treatment care and support, which may sometimes last throughout life. To ensure sustained and optimal care, people living with NCDs require regular and long-term quality clinical care. This makes it very costly to manage the patients and foot the medical bills.

This financial burden was escalated by the COVID-19 pandemic that adversely affected treatment and delivery of care to people living with NCDs as well as household incomes.

First of all, it became challenging to get to hospitals for treatment and to find medication due to travel restrictions. As a result, some people living with NCDs could not receive medication or other treatment on time.

During the pandemic, many lives of people living with NCDs were threatened according to Mr. Elias Nambaje, 52, who is living with a severe kidney condition in Kigali City.

Mr. Nambaje, who is a Member of Rwanda Kidney Organization, says he has been living with kidney disease for the last 15 years. He says lack of health insurance cover is a massive disadvantage for people living with NCDs.

“One of my main challenges is that community-based health insurance doesn’t cover the high treatment cost of kidney diseases, and the situation was worsened when COVID-19 affected my income. For instance, dialysis treatment requires at least Rwf1 million per month and for patients with transplanted kidneys, it requires about Rwf150,000 per month to buy drugs, which is unaffordable. This cost is not covered by Community Based Health Insurance (Mutuelle de Santé), a solidarity health insurance system used by Rwandans for the purpose of protection and receiving medical care in case of sickness,” says Mr. Nambaje.

Regarding restrictions posed by COVID-19, he says: “I faced other challenges such as lack of medicine during the total lockdown when getting a vehicle to go to the hospital was difficult. Sometimes, I traveled, and security guards stopped me even without checking my medical documents. The pandemic also led to an increase in the price of medicine. For instance, the price of a tablet rose from Rwf 1,000 to Rwf 3,000 due to the effect of COVID-19 on the logistics of health commodities.”

People with NCDs are required to feed well and to ensure a balanced diet in order to boost the body’s immunity. However, the COVID-19 pandemic affected household incomes.  “I have a family to support, so I cut down on the number of daily meals to help balance the family budget and save money for treatment,” Mr. Nambaje narrates.

“I am worried that my weakened immunity could increase the chance of contracting COVID-19. However, following all preventive measures, on the other hand, is the best option to stay free from the Coronavirus,” he stressed.

On behalf of people living with NCDs, Mr. Nambaje advocates for Universal Health coverage for all NCDs. He points out for example that community-based health insurance (CBHI) should cover the entire cost of kidney disease treatment to prevent out-of-pocket expenditures. He appeals to the Government to subsidize the cost of therapy because dialysis and medications (immunosuppressants) taken to prevent kidney rejection after transplant are overpriced.

Fighting NCD stigma

On tackling the issue of social discrimination and stigmatization of people living with NCDs, he reiterates that it is totally wrong. He says it is always important to remember that anyone (young or old) can suffer from an NCD.  “In society, some people think that the life of a person living with NCD has ended, and he/she is just waiting to die. This is totally wrong because people living with NCDs have the ability to do great things to improve their standard of living. People living with NCDs need your support, love and care,” he pleaded.

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Rwanda launches Advocacy Group for People Living with NCDs

Group to enrich Rwanda’s national strategy for the prevention and control of NCDs

From 25th – 26th November, Rwanda held the first-ever National NCD Conference in Kigali.

The conference brought together a cross section of stakeholders, including people living with NCDs, care partners, and the leadership of Rwanda NCD Alliance.

The event also witnessed the launch of the Rwanda Advocacy Agenda of People Living with NCDs.

Dr. Joseph Rukelibuga, who represented people living with NCDs, said they need to be given a voice in decision-making processes in regard to the prevention and control of NCDs.

“As advocates, people living with NCDs should be allowed to speak and share their lived experiences so as to identify gaps in approaches to NCD prevention and control that are frequently missed by institutions and organizations working in this field,” he said during a panel discussion.

“Our contribution is invaluable to creating a more equitable response to NCDs. However, there is still a long way to go before we reach a point where people living with NCDs can inform decision-making and have a real effect on policy.”

Dr. Rukelibuga’s remarks highlight the importance of the newly formed Rwanda Advocacy Agenda of People Living with NCDs, which is expected to provide an opportunity to further enrich NCD response strategies.

The Advocacy Group will also support the meaningful involvement of people living with NCDs in the NCD response, in addition to being a tool to guide the efforts of key stakeholders to improve prevention and control of NCDs and to call for decision-makers to take actions that will positively impact the health of people living with NCDs.

In line with the global advocacy agenda, the body will focus on four advocacy areas: Human rights and social justice; prevention; treatment care and support; and meaningful involvement.

Dr. Francois Uwinkindi, the Manager of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), was the guest of honour at the event, representing the Ministry of Health.

He applauded the outstanding work undertaken by people living with NCDs in bringing together lived experiences and recommendations to decision-makers.

“I thank the Network of People Living with a diverse range of NCDs who contributed to the development of the Rwanda Advocacy Agenda of People Living with NCDs. This advocacy tool will undoubtedly aid in the amplification of People Living with NCDs and in the implementation of Rwanda’s National Strategy and Costed Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2020-2025 by emphasizing on key focus areas.”

Dr. Rukelibuga represented People Living with NCDs on the interactive panel discussion that also included representatives from the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, World Health Organization, and the private sector, to highlight the role of different stakeholders in multi-sectoral collaboration in NCD response.

The Rwanda NCD Alliance was also commended for providing leadership in the consultative process that led to the formation of Rwanda Advocacy Agenda of People Living with NCDs.

Earlier, with support from the Rwanda NCD Alliance, representatives of people living with NCDs from the four Provinces and the city of Kigali, participated in face-to-face and virtual community conversations (focus group discussions) between June – October, 2021. In total, the consultative process involved 102 people living with diverse NCD conditions.  A team from Rwanda NCD Alliance facilitated the consultative engagements.

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NCDs: A Burden We All Need Help to Bear

Dread them, run from them, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a slow pandemic that impacts all facets of society.

NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pretension, heart diseases among others still attack, inflict pain and claim the lives of our loved ones.  It is so challenging in that even if you think you will not suffer from NCDs, some of your relatives or friends could.

Recent projections from the Global Burden of Disease study suggested that by the year 2020, the proportion of the overall burden in sub-Saharan Africa due to NCDs would increase to somewhere between 26% – 34%, and among adults aged 15-59 years to between 37% – 42%.

All this projected increase is due to demographic changes leading to older populations. However, for some conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, age-specific rates are likely to increase with urbanization and attendant changes in health-related behaviors.

NCDs are the second-leading cause of death in Kenya. According to World Health Organisation(WHO) statistics, about 4,757 people died of COVID-19 in Kenya between 3rd January, 2021 and 5th September, 2021. Compare that to the over 22,000 people who die of cancer every year. Just imagine the number of deaths if we were to include figures for the other NCDs. Shouldn’t more resources be allocated to NCDs?

Shocking as this sounds, it is the probable reality that we face. Most of us in Africa have always thought that NCDs attack old people because our grandparents and parents suffer from NCDs, and we are the ones who carry the burden of treatment and care.  Anyone who has experienced this would agree that it is one of the heaviest burdens to carry. If I were not religious, I could have likened it to the burden of the Cross that was carried by Jesus.

I am full of hope and faith that it is a burden we can run away from if our Governments prioritize prevention management and care for NCDs and include persons living with NCDs in decision-making processes.

Thanks to the ongoing sensitization drives by East Africa NCD Alliance, its partners, and medical workers, the misguided belief that NCDs are for the rich or the old is slowly fading away from our society. I know we have all witnessed the case of a child or young person with either cancer, high blood pretension, diabetes, or heart disease. Earlier, a person suffering from non-communicable diseases such as Epilepsy was considered cursed or bewitched.

However, with continuous education and sensitization, we have come to the realization that these are health conditions that require medical intervention for prevention, treatment, and management. We have witnessed people with NCDs living longer through adherence to treatment and management protocols.

Priority attention needed

Despite making significant progress in increasing awareness and knowledge of NCDs, Governments are yet to accord NCDs the priority they deserve. It is unfortunate that NCDs are slow pandemics that do not always elicit urgent action as was witnessed in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ebola. Therefore, while many people have continued to suffer, resource allocation by Governments and stakeholders to NCDs remains low.

We have seen countries develop COVID-19 response centers, yet many hospitals and health facilities do not have even space for NCDs clinics.

We only have one way of escape and that is to prepare by prioritizing and allocating more resources to NCDs. We have a duty to advocate the allocation of more resources to NCDs. We should rise up and task Governments to prioritize NCDs in national plans and budgets.

When we prioritize educating our communities, support prevention, and early detection as well as access to affordable and acceptable quality treatment and care, including palliative and rehabilitative care, only then can we rout out NCDs and make living with them bearable.

(This article, written by Harrison Andekowas first published by The Star (https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/2021-09-20-harrison-andeko-kenyans-cannot-carry-the-cross-of-ncds/)

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How To Reduce Cervical Cancer Cases Among Girls

 

An official from TNCDA addresses secondary school students during a breast cancer awareness exercise in Tanzania

Cervical Cancer is a painful, dangerous and deadly Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). Cervical cancer is the second-highest cause of mortality in women worldwide, affecting women aged 15 – 44 years (MAYO Clinic, 2021). Kenya reported approximately 5,236 newly diagnosed cervical cancer cases in 2020.

However, all hope is not lost. This frightening situation can be reversed with many lives saved and re-occurrence avoided if stakeholders including parents, medical experts, Governments, Civil Society Organisations and communities focus on prevention strategies.

True to the adage that prevention is better than cure, it is evident from research that NCDs such as cervical and liver cancers are preventable through vaccination. It has been proven through studies that the high incidence and mortality due to cervical cancer can be reversed if girls and boys are vaccinated before their exposure to sexual activities. Studies highlight that the HPV vaccine provides a chance to reduce cervical cancer amongst 90% of women vaccinated at a younger age.

It is against this background that the HPV Vaccine Campaign was rolled out in October 2019, backed by the GAVI Alliance and World Health Organisation (WHO), with the goal of immunizing 800,000 pre-adolescent girls aged 10 -12 years every year, free of charge. To save more lives, the HPV Vaccine Campaign was re-launched in 2021, at population level, making it available to all girls between 10–14 years (Ngune et al., 2020).

Vaccines to the rescue

To deepen the cervical cancer prevention strategies, the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance Kenya and Uganda Non Communicable Diseases Alliance through support from MSD, conducted a week-long sensitisation and awareness campaign on vaccination of young girls from 13th – 19th September 2021.

The campaign themed, ‘Prevent Now for the Future,’ leveraged on equipping journalists with knowledge on prevention of NCDs that they could share with the public through various media reporting.

In addition, a pool of experts and stakeholders including persons with lived experience were drawn to share insights and facts on the status of cervical cancer control in countries, progress of vaccination and to dispel all myths surrounding the vaccine.

Besides running social media campaigns to reach out to the general population, the alliances engaged with journalists through media roundtable discussions to empower them with information and to get their perspective on cervical cancer prevention. The two-hour online discussion culminated into calls to action specific to Governments, journalists, Civil Society Organisations, and the general population.

The media roundtable discussions led to clear calls to action for communities and all stakeholders. It was evident that the communities needed to prioritise the vaccination of young girls as a strategy for preventing occurrence of over 90% of cervical cancer cases in their generation. The communities were called upon to adopt the HPV vaccine and to take all eligible girls for vaccination.

In the same vein, civil society organisations were tasked to respond to the needs of persons living with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) by empowering them with knowledge to hold Governments accountable for cervical cancer prevention and control.

Governments were urged to take actions to improve the outcome of survivorship and to strictly implement the policies and strategies for management of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

In addition, the provision of uninterrupted access to healthcare services was considered as vital to cancer prevention and management.

References

  1. WHO. 2020. How Do Vaccines Work?
  2. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What everyone should know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 20, 2021.
  3. Ngune I, Kalembo F, Loessl B, Kivuti-Bitok LW (2020) Biopsychosocial risk factors and knowledge of cervical cancer among young women: A case study from Kenya to inform HPV prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237745.

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Prof. Kaushik Ramaiya Voted EANCDA President Elect

Prof. Kaushik Ramaiya

Professor Kaushik Ramaiya is the Chief Executive Officer and Consultant Physician / endocrinologist at Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital, Dar-es-Salaam where he has been working since 1982. He is an Honorary

Professor of Medicine and Global Health at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (since November 2018) and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).

Professor Ramaiya is a Member of the Board of World Diabetes Foundation and Hon. General Secretary

of Tanzania Diabetes Association (TDA), Tanzania NCD Alliance (TANCDA) and Hon. General Secretary to

Association of Private Health Facilities of Tanzania (APHFTA).

 

He is currently working with children with Type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular complications of antiretroviral drugs in HIV/AIDS and Diabetes/TB interaction. Together with a team from NIMRI (Muhimbili) and LSTM, Professor Ramaiya is also implementing a

project on CD NCD Integration models (MOCCA Study) and metformin intervention in HIV patients with IGT (META Trial).

 

He has also partnered with TDA, MoHCDGEC and PORALG to implement the Diabetes/NCD program in Zonal, Regional and District Hospitals all in Tanzania since year 2003. The program has obtained additional funding to expand and encompass NCD prevention and promotion, curative services in primary care, training, policy & legislations, monitoring and evaluation and operational research.

 

From 2000-2006, Professor Ramaiya served as Chair of sub-Saharan Africa Region of International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and as Vice President (Global) of IDF from 2007 to

  1. During his tenure as Chair of the sub-Saharan Africa Region, several tools including; the Diabetes Declaration for sub-Saharan Africa Region, Clinical Practice Guidelines for type 2 Diabetes and Diabetes Education Manual for Diabetes Educators in the region were developed in three major languages: English, French and Portuguese.

 

Professor Ramaiya has tremendously contributed to a better understanding of diabetes in the African

region through his research on the status of diabetes care in Africa and the economic costs of diabetes

and its consequences. He has held many oral presentations and published more than seventy (70) peer

reviewed articles.

Prof. Mucumbitsi is New EANCDA President

Prof. JOSEPH Mucumbitsi

He is Chief Consultant Pediatrician and Cardiologist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali (KFH, K) and Associate Professor (Hon) of Pediatrics, University of Rwanda. Currently, he is the Chairperson, Board of Directors of the Rwanda NCD Alliance and the former Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors of EANCDA. He is the Founder and President of the Rwanda Heart Foundation (RHF), a member of the World Heart Federation, the African Heart Network (AHN) and the Panafrican Society of Cardiology (PASCAR). He has been a Member of the Executive Board of AHN from 2012 to 2017 and he was recently elected as member of the Governing Council of PASCAR. 

As the Coordinator of the National Cardiac Surgery program, Prof. Mucumbitsi has collaborated with the Ministry of Health (MOH), KFH,K and international surgical visiting teams, to build a comprehensive cardiac care service in the country. He has also worked closely with the MOH and the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) on the National NCD policy, NCD strategic and action plans, as well as the national NCD protocols and treatment guidelines. 

Prof. Mucumbitsi has been involved in different national and international research projects on cardiovascular diseases, congenital heart disease, and RHD prevention, screening, and surgical outcomes. He is the author or co-author of peer reviewed articles and book chapters.

EANCDA congratulates the new President and looks forward to his policy, strategic leadership and guidance over the next three years.

EANCDA Commends Inaugural Team, Welcomes New Board

Members of the inaugural team pose with new EANCDA Board members in Arusha on November 10, 2021

At its Annual General Meeting held on 10th November 2021 in Arusha, Tanzania, the NCD Alliance East Africa applauded the inaugural Board led by Prof. Gerald Yonga for its distinguished service and strategic leadership.

NCD Alliance East Africa (EANCDA) was founded in 2014 with a Board that comprised an Executive and representatives from the six national NCD Alliances of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar.

The Inaugural Board has served the organisation since its inception. Characteristic of Inaugural Boards, the Prof. Gerald Yonga-led Board is testimony to seven years of nurturing, mentorship, dedication, devotion and great sacrifices.

The inaugural ENCDA Board is credited for championing the agenda of combating NCDs at national, regional and international levels. This noble duty entailed being on the frontline to ensure that the organisation achieves its intended goals of undertaking combined efforts to combat the NCD epidemic by putting NCDs at the centre of all East African health and development policies through targeted advocacy, programmatic work and outreach.

Prof. Yonga was full of praise for his team for the milestones achieved.

“We came from a very simple common Memorandum of Understanding to an outstanding international NGO recognised by regional and international bodies. It has been a huge task, but I commend my hard working, committed, purpose-driven and results- oriented team with whom we have successfully stewarded the organisation thus far,” he said.

Prof. Yonga said it was indeed satisfying and gratifying to serve for seven years (2014-2021) adding that he was ready to continue supporting the organisation. He thanked the organisation for the opportunity accorded to him and other Board members to offer leadership and administrative guidance to EANCDA.

 “Indeed, EANCDA is a recognized entity not only in the region but globally. We are handing over to an incoming Board a very robust, recognized and very futuristic organization that we hope shall be nurtured and brought to the highest level of integrity globally. I promise to remain a reliable partner and provide support to the organization,” said Prof. Yonga.

He commended the Secretariat for having made his work easy during the transition period of the organization and during the harsh COVID-19 pandemic period. Prof. Yonga acknowledged the tremendous support from partners, stakeholders and the respective member Alliances.

He specifically saluted the Danish NCD Alliance (DNCDA) for the long-term partnership and support, and extended gratitude to Ms. Susanne Volqvartz, who carried the passion to ensure that EANCDA is put in place.

On behalf of EANCDA, Dr. Peter Mokayathanked the Executive Board for building a recognized and admired organisation.  In a special way, he lauded Prof. Yonga for dedicating time and efforts to steward the organization amidst challenges.

“The memories of how we started are still fresh. I am really amazed that we can now sit together and discuss NCDs as a region. It is an evolution and progress.”

Dr. Mokaya acknowledged the love and dedication by all members, stakeholders and partners in ensuring that EANCDA meets its goals and mission.

“We are not here because we need money, rather we have a deep passion to ensure the organization meets its purpose,” he added.

He urged the organisation not to forget the pioneers of EANCDA, but rather utilize them for partnerships, research and other connections.

Mr. Ben Ikara, the outgoing Chairperson of the Finance Committee, commended the EANCDA Secretariat for supporting the Board in all its endeavours. He urged the organization to streamline guidelines and structures that protect staff.

New Board Ushered in

At the same meeting, the EANCDA Board of Directors approved some constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring continuity. The changes restructured the position of the Chairperson of Board of Directors to President and also introduced the position of President Elect, with the objective of ensuring a systematic and continuous progress of the organization.

The amendments also introduced the position of President Elect to ensure systematic and continuous progress of the organization.

The Annual General Meeting elected Prof. Joseph Mucumbitsi as President of NCD Alliance East Africa. Prof. Mucumbitsi will steward the organization for a term of three years (2021-2024). He brings vigor to the Board and will work with the team and partners to ensure that the vision of creating an East African population that is free from NCDs is realized.

The same meeting elected Prof. Kaushik Ramaiya as President Elect. In line with the constitution, Professor Ramaiya will serve as President Elect for one term with a duration of three years (2021-2024). He will automatically become the President, succeeding Prof. Joseph Mucumbitsi. During his tenure as President Elect, he is expected to understudy the President, act as his Deputy and perform all functions delegated to him by the President.

In his acceptance speech, Prof. Mucumbitsi thanked EANCDA for re-entrusting him with the leadership of the organization and called for collective support from members.

The President Elect Prof. Kaushik Ramaiya, said: “The priorities have already been set up most importantly there is the right Board in place.  There is need to diversify and look at other activities that can be done as a region.”

He added: “Prof. Yonga has taught us a lot of things and we have already attained an excellent network as EANCDA. We promise to keep the trend.”

The Outgoing Board of Directors 

NO. Name Alliance
Prof. Gerald Yonga Chairperson of Board of Directors
Prof. Joseph Mucumbitsi The Vice Chairperson Board of Directors
Prof. Kaushik Ramaiya The General Secretary
Ben Ikara Chairperson, Finance Committee
Dr. Francois Ndikumwenayo Burundi NCD Alliance
Dr. Susan Nakireka Uganda NCD Alliance
Dr. Peter Mokaya Kenya NCD Alliance
Louis Henry Majaliwa Zanzibar NCD Alliance
Dr. Catherin Karekezi Kenya NCD Alliance
Happy Nchimbi Tanzania ANCD Alliance
Alphonse Mbarushimana Rwanda NCD Alliance
Haji Fundi Zanzibar NCD Alliance
Christopher Kwizera Uganda NCD Alliance
Dr. Alexis Nizigiyimana Burundi NCD Alliance

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