27 million Nigerians infected with Hepatitis – WHO

Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The World Hepatitis Eradication Project (Nigerian Commission), non-governmental organization (WHO), has called on the government and stakeholders in the health sector to step up campaigns on awareness and vaccination against hepatitis as 27 million Nigerians are walking around with the disease.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 revealed that globally, 71 million people are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), and an estimated 257 million with hepatitis B virus (HBV), often without being aware that they carry the virus. Both Types B and C have considerable prevalence in the African region.

The report further stated that out of the above 328 million stated globally, a whopping 27 million Nigerians are walking around with the hepatitis virus unaware, increasing the chances of its transmission, infection and spread.

In a statement, the President of the World Hepatitis Eradication Project (Nigerian Commission), Dr. Mike Omotosho, explained that government at all levels need to commit more funds in order to bridge the yawning financial gap and barriers for all Nigerians to access testing, hepatitis prevention and other services in the context of universal health coverage (UHC).

According to him, “It is imperative that government at all levels take leadership by providing the needed resource commitment towards implementing the Nigerian National Strategic Plan provisions for prevention, testing and treatment programs; which is geared towards the global target of hepatitis elimination by 2030.

“During the celebration of the 2019 World Hepatitis Day, 50,000 people were tested for both HBV and HCV out of which 6,702 tested positive for Hepatitis B while 1,086 were positive for Hepatitis C.

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“These free screening activities were carried out on the wings of 120 Rotary Clubs and 32 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in almost 500 locations within one week which is fondly called the Hepatitis Zero Week and was held in over 115 Countries around the World.

“The Nigerian Commission has however not relented in the pursuit of the SDG 2030 goal and has gone further to carry out free hepatitis screenings and subsidized vaccinations where 4,872 people have been screened and 3,826 have been vaccinated for hepatitis B. These intervention has have been on-going in the city of Abuja and Lagos for the past 4 months”.

He further added: “One of the observations from the above intervention is that many Nigerians are not properly informed on the subject matter, hence the dire need for more awareness and sensitization. Unknown to many, Viral hepatitis affects all ages and genders; but some virus types have been associated with certain behaviors due to the mode of transmission.

“On our part will continue with the deserving sense of urgency, to collaborate with all relevant and interested public and private stakeholders in Nigeria and Diaspora to galvanize support towards increasing hepatitis awareness, screenings, vaccination and treatment services in all 36 States including the FCT, in order to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.”

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