Nigeria rolls out plans to eliminate viral hepatitis

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The Nigerian government has reiterated its commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis in the country by 2021.

The Minister of health Prof. Isaac Adewole made this known as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2017 World Hepatitis Day with theme ‘’Eliminate Hepatitis’’.

Prof. Adewole noted that the First Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis for 2016-2021 was approved during the 69th World Health Assembly in 2016.

He also said that there was the need for all stakeholders to take proactive steps of knowing their status by getting tested and finally seek for treatment to reduce needless deaths from this preventable and treatable infection.

He informed that the viral hepatitis was the seventh leading cause of death globally, adding that the disease was a silent killer and responsible for about 1.44 million deaths annually.

The minister further said that without appropriate diagnosis and treatment, around one- third of those chronically infected with viral hepatitis would die as a result of serious liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver cell cancer and liver failure.

“ Hepatitis has been really de-roped because we are not attaching the importance it deserves to it and therefore it has become a silent killer but what is particularly important is that the liver is like the engine room of the body and when the engine room or the factory is faulty, the entire system will not be able to work. So, the liver is very important and hepatitis affects the liver,” he said.

He pointed out that with appropriate treatment of hepatitis B and C, it would prevent the development of major life- threatening complication of chronic liver disease of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Adding that with the emergence of new antiviral drugs over 95% of the people with hepatitis can be completely cured of the virus within 3-6 months.

The World Health Organisations Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Rex Mpazanje, said that the viral hepatitis was the seventh leading cause of death globally.

He said that there are global efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis.

“It is indeed possible to eliminate viral Hepatitis. There are already positive results of reduced incidence from hepatitis B vaccinations given to every child as part of interference vaccine. Blood safety and injection safety intervention in healthcare settings and hepatitis B basic doses vaccines towards eliminating mother to child transition of hepatitis are also on the increase,” Dr. Mpazanje said.

Earlier in his goodwill message, the Nigeria Ambassador for Hepatitis Control, General Yakubu Gowon, (rtd), said that the Yakubu Gowon Foundation would continue to provide support for the cause of viral hepatitis in Nigeria.

“I salute and appreciate the good work that has been started in various parts of the country especially in the Internally Displaced Persons Camps in the north east and other locations across Nigeria, I wish them all every success in progress to eliminate Hepatitis in Nigeria,” Gen Gowon said.

He however added that there was need for Government and other Developmental Partners to create more awareness for the fight against Hepatitis.