Malaysiakini News

MP: Women’s health programmes missing from ‘mother of all budgets’

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Despite being hailed as the "mother of all budgets," mammogram and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programmes are missing from Budget 2018, according to Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim.

In the 2017 budget, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that the free programmes would be allocated RM30 million, but they did not actually appear in the budget proper.

RM20 million was allocated for the programmes in 2014, but the amount was slashed to just RM2 million a year later, before being completely defunded in 2016.

"Najib announced a budget of RM280.25 billion this year. If only he allocated the 2014 amount back to the free mammogram and HPV vaccination programmes, that would only cost the government RM20 million, or merely 0.007 percent of the total budget.

"Is that too much to ask for to protect women’s health?

"I call upon the prime minister to reinstate these programmes if he really cares for Malaysians in general and women in particular," Sim said in a statement today.

Sim also pointed out that the government itself has admitted that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for both men and women in Malaysia, with 3,209 cases in 2008.

Cervical cancer – which the HPV vaccine helps prevent – is the third most common cancer among Malaysian women, with 845 cases recorded in 2008.

Both figures came from the Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam’s parliamentary reply to Sim dated Nov 5, 2015.

"The government’s free mammogram programme was highly popular and had helped 263,627 women with early detection of breast cancer.

“This shows that the mammogram programme is popular, highly relevant and has helped a significant number of women in early detection to fight breast cancer.

"Government health programmes, such as the free mammograms and HPV vaccinations, are important, especially for women from the lower income group. The wide accessibility of government-run programmes also means greater awareness in the general public.

"Now with the allocation removed from the budget, only mothers and women in Penang and Selangor can still enjoy free mammograms because both state governments are still implementing this programme," he said.

Sim said he and other opposition MPs had raised the issue following the tabling of the 2016 budget, and the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Rohani Abdul Karim promised to reinstate it.

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