The federal government has expressed regret over the absence of healthcare apparatus to sensitise the public against hepatitis spread and curb the virus, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, made this known at the marking of the 2022 World Hepatitis Day (WHD) in Abuja.
The WHD is commemorated every July 28 to bring the world under one umbrella and raise awareness of the virus.
Ehanire, while speaking at the event, said the federal government recognises the need to do more to curb the spread. The minister added that hepatitis continues to be a public health threat, especially hepatitis B and C, which causes chronic infection and a high morbidity rate due to under-diagnosis.
Over 20 million people were living with either hepatitis B or C in the country, which he said is a major public health challenge.
“The spread of Hepatitis B and C, similar to HIV, is fuelled by unsafe sexual behaviour and injection practices, unsafe blood transfusion, harmful practices such as sharing of sharp objects for scarification marks, tattoos etc and Mother-to-Child transmission.”
“We acknowledge the need to do much more than ever before to address this. The global theme for this year is “BRINGING HEPATITIS CARE CLOSER TO YOU,” he said.
To this end, the ministry, with the support of partners, is taking decisive steps to bring hepatitis care closer to Nigerians, Ehanire said.
He added that important policy, strategic documents, and treatment protocols have been developed in line with the Global Health Sector Strategy for viral hepatitis control.
“You may be aware that in May this year, at the 75th World Health Assembly, WHO member states approved a new Global Health Sector Strategy for Viral Hepatitis.
“I am happy to inform you that Nigeria has in alignment with the new strategy, developed our own National Strategic Framework aimed at achieving the global target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030”.
‘The core pillars identified for attaining the 2030 target include infant vaccination, prevention of mother-to-child intervention, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, diagnosis and treatment. The National Strategic Framework will be formally presented as part of this briefing.
“As a country committed to the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030, the need to create massive public awareness cannot be overemphasised.
Together with this, we need to build the capacity of health care providers, expand access to diagnosis and treatment, and improve community engagement as well as political leadership at all levels,” he said.
Also speaking, the WHO, Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, said that Nigeria has one of the highest burdens of viral hepatitis with a national HBV prevalence rate of 8.1 per cent and HCV prevalence rate is 1.1 per cent among adult aged 15 to 64 years in the country.
“There is a lack of awareness among the general populace as evidenced by a low uptake of available preventive services,” he said.
He lamented the cost of treatment and out-of-pocket payment that has stopped several from seeking medical help.
Mr Mulombo, however, added that in recent years, Nigeria has shown a commitment to reducing infections in children across the country.
“By introducing the hepatitis B Birth dose and the pentavalent (DTP-HepB-Hib) vaccine into routine childhood immunization schedule since 2004, Nigeria is contributing to the global achievement of the reduction of infections in children across the country,” he said.
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