Blog from Ethiopia

Supervision doctor Marlieke de Fouw was in Ethiopia and visited the project there, read her blog here :

"I wish I am the final one" - "I wish I am the final one" -

In an open field under the trees, more than a thousand men and women have gathered. Silently they sat together. On the way here, we met many men and women, walking, their heads covered with black or white veils. I am in Ethiopia at the funeral of a woman who died of cervical cancer and the community has come to say goodbye.


A 45-year-old woman, mother of 5 children under the age of 16, married to a man who has problems with alcohol abuse and therefore cannot provide for his family. During screening, cervical cancer was diagnosed at an advanced stage. Treatment was no longer possible. She and her family were supported through the palliative care program with visits from spiritual leaders, community workers and livelihood support. In her final weeks, she said she felt safe and supported by all the people around her and expressed her hope for the future; "I hope I'm the last one."


One of the religious leaders gives an impressive speech at the funeral. He tells his community that the signs of cervical cancer are not visible until it is too late. He urges women and their husbands not to fear screening because it makes your health better. And when the nurse tells you that you are sick, you are not alone; the community is there to stand by you.


A week earlier in Addis Ababa, a woman was visibly tense waiting in the clinic. She had been referred for treatment (cryotherapy) by another clinic, where abnormalities had been found during screening. When we had examined her again and told her that the screening results were normal, her face turned into one big smile. She had not slept for three nights from worry. She had not known how to tell her children that their mother was seriously ill and had cancer.


The effects of cervical cancer are visible and palpable here. Many people know a woman themselves or stories about women who died with blood loss and severe pain. Not everyone knows that this is called cervical cancer and that it is preventable. This is why proper education and access to screening for all women are so important.


The screening program in Ethiopia has now trained staff at 21 clinics in screening and treatment, and together they have already screened more than 15,000 women. A great step towards realizing the hopes of patients.


Marlieke de Fouw