World Hepatitis Day 2023: 91m Africans live with hepatitis

World Hepatitis Day 2023: 91m Africans live with hepatitis

  • 19m Nigerians affected  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says no fewer than 91 million Africans are currently living with hepatitis, with around 125,000 hepatitis-related deaths occurring in Africa. In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health says no fewer than 19 million people are living with the condition.  

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, spoke on Friday in her message to commemorate 2023 World Hepatitis Day with the theme, “One Life, One Liver”.

Moeti said the theme sought  to emphasise the link between viral hepatitis infection and liver inflammation that is, liver injury and damage and the broader issues of liver health and primary health care.

According to her, 1.2 million new hepatitis infections were detected in 2019 alone and that the majority of the population’s young and active members die from the disease.

She said that hepatitis was a viral infection that primarily affects the liver, causing inflammation and potentially leading to more severe conditions such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Credit: NAN

Moeti said that most common types in Africa included hepatitis B and C, which could be transmitted through contaminated blood, unprotected sexual activity, or from mother to child during childbirth.

According to her, infection with the hepatitis B virus is preventable by vaccination, while doctors can now successfully treat hepatitis C, caused by the hepatitis C virus, with antiviral drugs.

She said that hepatitis causes the breakdown of the liver’s normal structure, which prevents the liver from working correctly.

“Hepatitis B is commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery.

“Hepatitis B is also spread through contact with blood or other body fluids during sex with an infected partner, unsafe injections, or exposures to sharp instruments.

“Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person by unscreened blood transfusions, sharing needles, and unsafe sexual practices that lead to direct exposure to blood,” she said.

According to her, WHO supports regional and national efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 by providing clear guidance for decentralised and simplified person-centred prevention, testing and treatment of viral hepatitis.

She said the support also included eliminating hepatitis B through birth dose vaccination (the day of birth or the day after).

Moeti said that a lot still needed to be done to reduce hepatitis-related deaths and infections.

Also in a message to mark the day, the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Health, Engr. Olufunso Adebiyi, represented by the Director of Public Health at the Ministry, Dr. Alex Oko disclosed that no fewer than 19million people are infected with the virus in Nigeria. He said that the government, in collaboration with stakeholders especially World Health Oganization, is putting effort to eradicate it in the country.

” The situation is worsened by low awareness in the general population, low coverage of testing and treatment which are important gaps to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2023

“Therefore, today’s event is another opportunity to renew and sustain commitment and effort by stakeholders in the public and private sectors towards achieving control of viral hepatitis in Nigeria.”

The Permanent Secretary stressed that it is imperative to acknowledge that viral hepatitis knows no boundaries, It affects people regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status, therefore the burden of this disease on families, communities, and healthcare systems cannot be underestimated.

“It is important that communities are empowered to confront this challenge head-on, by prioritizing prevention education and public awareness which are key weapons in the fight against viral hepatitis.”

Credit: NAN/Starnews

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