OCTOBER is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Globally, there are various events and initiatives that are lined up to raise awareness on the debilitating effects of the world’s leading killer disease after HIV and Aids.
Zimbabwe as well has maintained this tradition, all for a good cause, but beyond the October month, all the hive of activities seem to slow down and by Christmas, many would have moved on to other “important issues”, relegating the fight against cancer to the dustbin, so to speak.
Breast cancer is one of the leading killer diseases in the country, but has continued to decimate the population due to limited funding and attention from key stakeholders. It all becomes a futile exercise which many use as an excuse to massage their conscience.
As part of the campaign to fight the scourge, some activists have resorted to wearing a pink ribbon, but we feel society should go beyond rhetoric and reach out to the victims with a helping hand.
Many who partake in these little shows have absolutely no idea what it feels like to live with the disease, the chemotherapy sessions, the nausea that accompanies it all, the loss of work and productivity, the shame even of losing a breast or life itself.
Every year, individuals, corporates, governments and non-governmental organisaitons make emotional pledges to address the scourge, but hardly go beyond public posturing as the plight of cancer patients, especially women, in developing countries remains dire.
With limited funding and weak policies, the fight is far from over. What is most disturbing is that many will want to be associated with the month and even donate a few dollars or time towards the cause, but that is only for the good public relations for their company or just making sure their prospective clients see them in good light.
It has ceased to be about the poor woman in Muzarabani, Gokwe, Nyanga, Chipinge, Binga or Mpoengs with no access to screening or worse information that will help save her life.
None of these “spirited efforts” by some opportunists are long-term and yet, some woman somewhere is dealing with a gaping wound on her chest, forgotten in her small grass-thatched rondavel by the same people claiming to be advocating for her cause.
The activists should now go beyond just one month, but to remain consistent and visible throughout the year for as long as cancer remains a leading killer disease.
The fact that resources are poured into the glitzy dinner events, the usual awareness-raising meetings attended by the same people who are so alienated from the communities that need the information, is a big shame.
Some even travel thousands of kilometres to attend these high-powered meetings, but that has not brought forth meaningful results.
Results-oriented advocacy is what Zimbabwe and other countries grappling with the pandemic need rather than high teas that yield absolutely nothing except justifying the amorous funding from genuine people who care about the woman struggling to get access to essential medicines.
Government, too, is not exonerated from this because they hold the keys in terms of achieving the change that will shift the dynamics.
But it would be hugely unfair not to recognise organisations like the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe and some private welfare organisations which, throughout the year, are on the ground, with little financing, but providing moral care, mobilising resources and taking them down to the grassroots.