By victor Akaa, Abuja
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Director for Africa ,Dr. Matshidiso Moeti has said Hepatitis virus would be eliminated in 2030 if there was adequate resources, community and political awareness, as well as strong political commitment by the partners ,member states and stakeholders.
Dr. Moeti made this assertion when he joined the global community in commemoration of this year’s world hepatitis day on July 28,2019
He said, going by the theme of this year’s celebration, “Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis”, it is a timely reminder that this disease can be eliminated by 2030 with adequate resources and strong political commitment.
He said 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 each year due to complications like end-stage liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The regional director also said, as part of the effort to track the progress made so far on hepatitis across the region, WHO for the first time in June developed the hepatitis scorecard that shows
the highest burden of hepatitis B infection in children under five years is seen in countries without hepatitis B 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.
He also acknowledged that funding hepatitis testing and treatment services as part of universal health coverage is a cost-effective investment.
But however ,called on member states to invest in a public health approach towards elimination of viral hepatitis B and C in Africa.
“Countries should invest in hepatitis B vaccination for all newborns and integrate hepatitis interventions as part of health system strengthening. This includes building 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”.
WHO therefore, commends Rwanda and Uganda for providing free access to hepatitis testing and treatment as well as Egypt for the recent proposal to support hepatitis testing and treatment for one million people across 14 African countries.
WHO also commends Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for supporting hepatitis B birth-dose vaccination and the Global Fund for providing hepatitis C care for people receiving HIV therapy.
He urged both the partners and pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of hepatitis B and C diagnostics and medicines.
Noting that together with the research community, they can collectively explore ways to simplify testing and treatment, and promote innovation towards a cure for hepatitis B and a vaccine for hepatitis C.
Further more, he called on governments and partners, civil society and people living with viral hepatitis to continue playing a central role in raising community and political awareness.
He assured that WHO will continue to support collaboration across member states.
Recall that, last month the African Hepatitis Summit in Kampala, Uganda was attended by more than 600 people from 32 countries.
In that summit, “African Hepatitis Song” was launched “let’s all unite and invest to win this war on viral hepatitis, let’s sensitize all the people and let all play our unique roles”.
With this song Dr. Moeti ended his speech saying, “this is what is needed to reach the goal of elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030”.