United to End Cervical Cancer in Egypt, an initiative to reduce the number of cases while raising awareness and improving women’s access to preventive care, is the recipient of Rotary’s third annual Programs of Scale award. The grant was announced in May at the RI Convention in Melbourne, Australia.
Building on the expertise and knowledge of key partners, the four-year programme in and around Cairo will vaccinate more than 30,000 girls, aged 9–15, provide cancer screenings for 10,000 women, and launch a public awareness campaign to reach four million people. Healthcare workers, school administrators and staff will receive training on cervical cancer and its causes to ensure proper care and counseling for women and girls.
“As a cancer survivor, I am proud that we are supporting this project — and especially gratified that we are taking such an important step to support women’s health,” said RI President Jennifer Jones, who announced the grant at the convention. “By providing preventive care, we can empower women and girls with the knowledge and resources they need to stay healthy and thrive. This programme is further proof that Rotary is capable of creating large-scale, meaningful programmes that create lasting change.”
Cervical cancer is considered one of the most preventable cancers. It’s caused primarily by the human papillomavirus, which is responsible for the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Ninety per cent of cervical cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, where cancer screenings and routine HPV vaccinations aren’t available and cultural misconceptions may deter women from seeking care.
A 2021 WHO report showed that only 1 per cent of women aged 30–49 in Egypt had ever been screened for cervical cancer and of those diagnosed with the disease, more than half die from it. By providing vaccines to girls, screenings and timely treatment for women, and accessible information, United to End Cervical Cancer in Egypt strives to reduce the burden of this preventable disease and encourage communities to prioritise women’s health.
“By increasing awareness and promoting preventive care for cervical cancer, we can save lives and create healthier communities in Egypt,” said Amal El-Sisi, a paediatrics professor at Cairo University and a member of RC El Tahrir. “As we gather data for the first time on the HPV and cervical cancer burden in the greater Cairo area, we are gaining crucial insight into the overall prevalence in Egypt. Upscaling our efforts will enable us to reach more women and girls in Egypt and empower them with the knowledge and tools they need to take control of their health.”
In addition to increasing awareness of cervical cancer and improving medical services for women, the programme will make progress toward the goals set by WHO’s Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative. This global effort aims to vaccinate 90 per cent of girls by age 15, screen 70 per cent of women by age 35 and again by age 45, and treat 90 per cent of women who have precancerous or cancerous cells. It aims to meet those targets by 2030.
RC El Tahrir initiated United to End Cervical Cancer in Egypt, with the full support of RID 2451 (Egypt). The effort is modelled after an Egyptian presidential initiative on breast cancer, which increased women’s visits to clinics and offers routine breast health services. The cervical cancer prevention programme has assembled a coalition of partners that include the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, the Egyptian Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the Sona3 El Khair Foundation.
“The Egyptian government is committed to improving women’s health, and we are pleased to work in partnership with Rotary clubs in Egypt to prevent cervical cancer in our country as part of the new presidential initiative for early cancer detection,” said Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, minister of health and population.
The Rotary Foundation awards one $2 million Programs of Scale grant each year to an evidence-based programme that aligns with at least one of Rotary’s causes and is ready to be expanded to create larger scale change. The programmes are sponsored by Rotarians in collaboration with local communities and partner organisations that offer expertise and support.
“With Rotary’s Programs of Scale, our members are inspired to tackle large scale challenges and collaborate with organisations that share our vision for transformative change,” said Ian Riseley, TRF trustee chair (2022–23).
The other Programs of Scale finalist this year is the Digital Interactive Classrooms programme, which aims to improve the quality of education in Panama by introducing new technology in 230 classrooms.
Past Programs of Scale award recipients
United to End Cervical Cancer in Egypt is the third recipient of Rotary’s annual Programs of Scale grant. The first two grants supported programmes in Zambia and Nigeria that have already made significant progress in improving the health of communities in those countries.
2020–21: Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia aims to reduce cases of malaria in 10 heavily affected districts in Zambia’s Central and Muchinga provinces. The programme is especially focused on reducing severe malaria and death among pregnant women and children under age five.
- With the support of several local implementing partners, the programme has trained and supported 245 health facility staff members and added 2,500 community health workers to the national health system in Zambia. The community health workers are trained in integrated community case management, which targets the three diseases that cause the most deaths in children under age five: malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. They also participate in polio immunistion campaigns. The programme has expanded effective malaria diagnosis and treatment to communities in the target districts, bringing health care access to over 1.2 million Zambians.
2021–22: Together for Healthy Families in Nigeria aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by increasing access to high-quality healthcare in several areas of Nigeria. The programme involves training healthcare workers, equipping health facilities, and creating new patient feedback and referral systems.
- Partnerships with nine institutions, including the Federal Ministry of Health, were established to ensure the long-term sustainability of the initiative. A baseline study was conducted across project locations in order to measure programme effectiveness and location-specific knowledge, attitudes and practices. In the first six months of implementation, the programme trained 210 healthcare workers in emergency obstetrics and neonatal care, engaged traditional and faith-based leaders, and held community dialogue sessions for more than 5,000 people.
Learn more about Programs of Scale grants at my.rotary.org/ programs-scale-grants.