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World Hepatitis Day: Foundation offers free tests, vaccines to Tunga-Maji residents




A TOTAL of 490 persons including vulnerable children from 10 years and above, men and women, were tested and vaccinated against hepatitis B and C at Tunga Maji, a community in Gwagwalada Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The exercise, which is part of the activities marking the 2015 World Hepatitis Day, was carried out under the free medical outreach program of Elohim Foundation, a civil society organization.

The Project Director of the organization, Julius Ibecheole, said: “This year’s event is aimed at creating the needed awareness on the increasing spread of Viral Hepatitis in Nigeria, which currently has an infected population of about 20 million Nigerians, according to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) in country report.”

He noted that the federal government should act now by providing treatment access and support for infected persons, as the cost associated with obtaining treatment from the very few available specialist centres in the country is very high and beyond the reach of the average Nigerian, given that fees as high as N40, 000 to N60, 000 is needed on the average for diagnosis alone. 

He also extended his call to development agencies and pharmaceutical groups to support hepatitis treatment in Nigeria as the burden of Hepatitis is astronomically far higher than that of HIV with about four million infected Nigerians; more so when hepatitis infection is much more deadly than HIV.

Beneficiaries of the screening who tested negative were given free vaccinations while those that tested positive were referred to Bwari and Asokoro General Hospital MOPD as they have specialist to handle the needed treatment while the organisation follows up on the patient through linkage to her Support Group mechanism to enable them access behavioural change communication, treatment literacy education, treatment support and adherence counselling services. 

This is in addition to the follow-up with the non-positives who, through the issuance of a vaccination card and text messages, are reminded of the need to complete their vaccination appropriately. 

Mr. Ibecheole described the low level of awareness of the disease and its treatment among the rural residents of the FCT as an ugly trend.

He called on the Federal Ministry of Health to un-bundle the new strategic plan on Hepatitis awareness, treatment and care, which for now appears to be only a health sector plan in order to accommodate all relevant stakeholders at ensuring the inputs of all, which will lead to the reduction of the impact of Hepatitis in Nigeria as has been the case with HIV intervention.

One of the beneficiaries, Esther Jacob, expressed appreciation to the organization for the kind gesture, pledging to take advantage of the screening and vaccination.

Cssava stems and a special brand of potatoes called orange flavoured sweet potatoes, rich with vitamin A, were distributed to the residents as part of the deliverables under a USAID funded CRS project called SMILE.

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