WHO tasks African leaders to invest in hepatitis B vaccination
The global health body noted that despite the availability of diagnostic tools and effective treatment, less than one in 10 of the 71 million people with Hepatitis B or C in Africa have access to testing and more than 200,000 die yearly due to complications like end-stage liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who made the call at a briefing to mark the 2019 World Hepatitis Day in Abuja, appealed to partners and pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of hepatitis B and C diagnostics and medicines.
He stressed the need for the research community to explore ways to simplify testing and treatment and promote innovation towards a cure for Hepatitis B and a vaccine for hepatitis C.
Represented by the WHO, Officer-in-Charge, Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peters, Moeti noted that scorecard showed the highest-burden of Hepatitis B infection in children under five years was seen in countries without birth-dose vaccination in combination with suboptimal coverage (under 90%) of the childhood pentavalent vaccine; and testing and treatment as a public health approach remains the most neglected aspect of the response.
According to him, it is important to build on existing laboratory capacities for HIV and TB, embedding hepatitis surveillance in the national health information system, and securing supplies of affordable medicines and diagnostics.
He said: “Funding hepatitis testing and treatment services as part of universal health coverage is a cost-effective investment. The theme this year: Invest In Eliminating Hepatitis is a timely reminder that this disease can be eliminated by 2030 with adequate resources and strong political commitment. I call on the Member States to invest in a public health approach towards the elimination of viral hepatitis B and C in Africa.”
Meanwhile, Rotary Club has provided free testing and vaccine for over five million Nigerians.
The Director of Rotary Action Group for Hepatitis Eradication, Oye Oyewo, during a sensitisation meeting for Rotary Club of Abuja members, said the disease could have been totally eradicated if the government had paid same attention given to other diseases.
He said: “The disease is worse than HIV/AIDS. It does not show any symptoms until it’s at the advanced stage. Affected victims get to know of their status, probably during blood donation. So, there is a need for the government to scale up the campaign on hepatitis… ”
Also, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said the state government is building a robust healthcare system that would meet the needs of residents, especially with revamping of health institutions and establishment of the health insurance scheme in the state.
The governor said this in commemoration of the World Hepatitis Day, marked every July 28, by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other agencies.
Obaseki said the state government was investing in revamping Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) through the Edo Healthcare Improvement Programme (EdoHIP), which would afford residents an opportunity to access quality healthcare services.
He said: “As we commemorate World Hepatitis Day, we reiterate our commitment to improving the healthcare system in the state by continually investing in the personnel and infrastructure at the facilities to handle communicable and non-communicable diseases, including hepatitis. We are also confident that the opening of the Edo Specialist Hospital will provide services to help in testing for and managing ailments.
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