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Sawsan Jafar and Dr. Luay Shabaneh sign the agreement. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The United Nations Population Fund, Arab States Regional Office (ASRO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), a UAE-based civil society organization to boost collaborative efforts in reducing the burden of cervical cancer on the Arab states.

The MoU aims to raise awareness, combine advocacy efforts and knowledge sharing on reproductive health and women empowerment with a focus on reproductive health cancers, cervical cancer, in particular.

Cervical cancer still causes at least 7,600 deaths per year among women in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

Dr. Luay Shabaneh, Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund in the Arab States said, “[United Nations Population Fund] is committed to support national governments with the development or update of their cervical cancer prevention and control programmes. I’m feeling privileged to be here today and officially announce the UNFPA ASRO partnership with Friends of Cancer Patients, a long-standing partner and renowned champion for the prevention of cervical cancer.”

Cervical Cancer Forum

During the same event, Dr. Shabaneh, alongside the Chairman of Friends of Cancer Patients Board of Directors, Sawsan Jafar, announced the 2nd Cervical Cancer Forum in January 2021. This forum under the title “Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer” will be a follow up forum to the first edition organized by FOCP in collaboration with UNFPA ASRO and the MENA Coalition for HPV Elimination, in January 2019 in Sharjah, that resulted in announcing the “Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer 3x3”.

Describing the partnership with UNFPA ASRO, Jafar explained, “If decisive action is not taken now, 42 women will die each day from a preventable disease, cervical cancer, in the MENA region by 2040.”

She added: “Building on the work FOCP has done to date to enhance women’s access to cervical cancer screening and treatment in the region, and in support of UNFPA’s global efforts to increase awareness of the disease, I am pleased to announce that the second Cervical Cancer Forum will be taking place in January 2021. At the forum, we will review the progress of the three-pronged integrated strategy implemented under the ‘2019 Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer’, and discuss the establishment of sustainable cervical cancer and HPV eradication programmes. I am confident that this forum will offer a strong impetus to local, regional and international health communities and centres of medical knowledge in mobilising their efforts and building their capacities to ensure that future generations of women do not have to succumb to a preventable and treatable cancer.”