Today’s Q&A is an example of how even if one lives miles away from the place of birth and adulthood –also the place of one’s earliest memories, one way or another, he/she would always find a way back home.
Dr. Cesare Manetti and Dr. Michele Cosentino are Italian-Eritreans, who were both born and raised in Eritrea. They might have left the country to pursue their education, and years went by when they started families of their own, but their heart never ceased storing dear childhood memories of home. Dr. Cesare Manetti and Dr. Michele Cosentino found their way back home, after independence, by giving back to the society they are extremely devoted to. They both are medical doctors who enjoy assisting the society through best ways they know, mainly with the help of fellow friends.
On Sunday afternoon in Dr. Cesare Manetti had an informal meeting with senior Professor Daria Minucci of the University of Padova and Dr. Kebreab Mehari gynecologist at the Orrotta Referral Hospital. They had a friendly –colleague to colleague talk on joining hands on a new joint project regarding the prevention of cervical cancer, a cause of which Dr. Michele Cosentino has been fond of for long. Dr. Cesare Manetti supervises eight health centers throughout the country; part of the project is to implement cervical cancer testing mechanisms in Dr. Manetti’s centers, while also spreading equal access to all Eritrean women especially in remote areas. … And I snooped in the middle; here follows their conversation.
FOND OF ERI-YOUTH
Dr. Cesare Manetti: The Eritrean youth could be of example to the rest of the third world countries. They are devoted, enthusiastic and curious. So by actually teaching few of them we can grant a future of many more as they are able of self-learning. We are at advantage because we have a culture of spiritual benevolence; no one would take to grave whatever he or she learns.
Dr. Michele Cosentino: It is exactly what we’re aiming for. There is no development in coming back and forth when we have so many youngsters who are ready to help. We show them how the tests are done and we can rest assured for decades. When we show our youngsters the way, they will run on their own speed.
GIVING BACK TO THE SOCIETY
Dr. Cesare Manetti: I have eight laboratories: two near Keren, and the rest in Hamelmalo, Halhal, Mogolo, Engela`, Digsa and Glas. A big part of the society does not understand how medically critical a laboratory is. What would we be without proper diagnosis? The technical moment between looking for a diagnosis and a doctor’s final decision is very important. Which is why we need fully equipped laboratories with great technicians. My homework is to guarantee the constant upgrading for best quality both of human resources and the material engaged in these laboratories.
Dr. Michele Cosentino: I am from Asmara, my mother is Eritrean and my father is Italian. This is a cause I followed for a long time. After conducing my studies I found work in Padova and I have lived there most of my life. In reality I am not a pathologist. I am a gynecologist. I have worked many times with my colleagues here in Asmara at the Orrotta Referral Hospital. This idea of contributing to women’s health by preventing cervical cancer came to me with the help of my long time collogue Prof. Daria Minucci. She is a personality who has devoted all of her life to the prevention of cervical cancer. I think it has been some fifty years. She has dealt with it thoroughly, she has conducted countless studies and, in fact, Italy owes Prof. Daria Minucci quite a lot. As a continuation of her strives and my personal dreams, we came to Eritrea together in 2012, and started working on the prevention of cervical cancer in 2014.
Prof. Daria Minucci: We are talking about the second cause of death for women in general, with a global percentage of 87%, being victims of cervical cancer especially in underdeveloped countries where there are no prevention mechanisms. Cervical Cancer is common in Eritrea. Prevention is a way to eradication. And this will be attained only if the country works on intensifying prevention mechanisms.
I started out 50 years ago when there was no Pap test and no mechanisms of preventing the disease. I saw many women suffering, horrible memories. However with the introduction of Pap test, Europe saw a notable reduction of the mortality rate caused by cervical cancer. In Italy for instance we had a downgrade from 30 to 3 cases in 100000 women. Meaning pinpointing a tumor before it progresses to cancer, after so many years of no visible symptoms, can result in avoiding death cases of many women.
The project we –along with stakeholders from the Eritrean Ministry of Health is to, are carrying on is multifaceted. The first step was to raise awareness and also prepare local medics. So, with the collaboration of the University of Padova we instructed 11 Eritrean professionals and exchange students. And also, Dr. Kibreab would explain this better, we put up movable laboratories, they have a simple structure really. The school was completed in 2014 and is now rendering service. Now that we think we have enough professionals we are overseeing a pilot project for 2000 women. We hope and aim for expanding access for every Eritrean woman; our next step aims for 5000 women, more students and more laboratories.
Dr. Kebreab Mehari: I am grateful for the collaborations that led way to big achievements, which will be even greater, now that the ministry and stakeholders will play due part. The Eritrean Ministry of Health sees this as a vital project and, in fact, has assisted in great ways. The outcomes have been encouraging. The cause is great. Prioritizing the health of nationals has been and still is a main concern of the Government and People of Eritrea, hence this project too, will be assisted in every possible way.
The project started with the vision of my colleague and friend Dr. Michele Cosentino, and along the help of friends and stakeholders, here we are now very confident that we can lower women’s death toll caused by cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer has a pre-cancer stage, very hard to notice. Say, for ten years or so, no symptoms would be seen. But when the cancer erupts, then it is probably too late. We have some shortages, especially in logistics. However by working together, we will fix it soon. Can we say that the results we have attained are encouraging? Yes they are. We have more to do. We will attract more stakeholders and see if we can overcome our shortages.
Dr. Cesare Manetti: I think raising knowledge among our young and very capable students will be a key to a speedy advancement.
Dr. Michele Cosentino: Definitely.
Professor Daria Minucci: We can read of varied experiences in the ‘science literature’, although I don’t think an organized prevention campaign has been done in Africa or in any of the third world countries so far. Therefore, I am eager for the success of this project.
Dr. Michele Cosentino: We don’t want a non-homogeneous campaign. In Eritrea those things don’t work. With concerted efforts we will certainly attain what we hope for. And once again, we will be able to write a humanitarian history of great importance!