World Hep­ati­tis Day: Is Nige­ria im­mune from the virus?

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Ibrahim Muye Ya­haya

As the World marked the Hep­ati­tis day on 28th July, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has called on gov­ern­ments around the globe to step up aware­ness of viral hep­ati­tis and in­creased ac­cess to test­ing and treat­ment of the dis­ease. There are more peo­ple be­ing in­fected by the dis­ease glob­ally than by HIV. This comes ahead of World Hep­ati­tis Day hold­ing to­day. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ure by the health body, only one in 20 peo­ple with the viral hep­ati­tis know they have it while just one in 100 peo­ple with the dis­ease is treated. “The world has ig­nored hep­ati­tis at its peril. It is time to mo­bilise a global re­sponse to hep­ati­tis on the scale sim­i­lar to that gen­er­ated to fight other com­mu­ni­ca­ble diseases like HIV-Aids and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis,” the WHO’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Dr. Mar­garet Chan, said.

Hep­ati­tis B and C can be trans­mit­ted through the use of con­tam­i­nated blood and nee­dles in health­care fa­cil­i­ties or among peo­ple who in­ject drugs, from un­safe sex and from in­fected mother and child. “We need to act now to stop peo­ple from dy­ing need­lessly from hep­ati­tis. This re­quires a rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion of ser­vices and medicines for all the peo­ple in need,” Dr Got­tfried Hirn­schall, WHO di­rec­tor of the HIV-Aids De­part­ment and Global Hep­ati­tis Pro­gramme said. The WHO says de­spite progress made in the treat­ment of hep­ati­tis, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a vac­cine for hep­ati­tis B, in some coun­tries poli­cies, reg­u­la­tions and high medicine prices mean many can­not af­ford the cure. There is no vac­cine for hep­ati­tis C, how­ever oral medicines, di­rec­tact­ing an­tivi­rals see more than 90% of pa­tients cure within two to three months. Quick facts from the health body shows that viral hep­ati­tis af­fects around 400 mil­lion peo­ple glob­ally; that about 6-10 mil­lion peo­ple are newly in­fected ev­ery year, an es­ti­mated 1.45 mil­lion peo­ple die from the dis­ease in 2013, about 90% of peo­ple with hep­ati­tis do not know they are in­fected, over 90% of peo­ple with hep­ati­tis C can be cure within 3-6 months, about 130150 mil­lion peo­ple glob­ally have chronic hep­ati­tis C in­fec­tion, sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of those who are chron­i­cally in­fected will de­velop liver cir­rho­sis or liver can­cer, about 700,000 peo­ple die an­nu­ally from hep­ati­tis C re­lated liver diseases and an­tivi­ral medicines can cure ap­prox­i­mately 90% of per­sons with hep­ati­tis C in­fec­tions thereby re­duc­ing the risks of death from liver can­cer re­lated diseases.

In 2016, about 194 coun­tries adopted the first ever global health sec­tor strat­egy on viral hep­ati­tis with global tar­gets. The strat­egy aims to treat 8 mil­lion peo­ple from hep­ati­tis B and C by 2020, to re­duce news in­fec­tions by 90% and cut the num­ber of peo­ple dy­ing of hep­ati­tis by 65% by 2030. The sec­ond World Hep­ati­tis Sum­mit takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil in March next year. Based on the in­for­ma­tion from the World Health lead­ers, cou­pled with the num­ber of peo­ple known to us that have died or presently go­ing through med­i­ca­tion re­sult­ing from been in­fected with any of the types of HEP­ATI­TIS virus is not only alarm­ing, but very dis­turb­ing, and this clearly sug­gests that there is in­deed an ur­gent need to de­clare a Na­tional Emer­gency, iden­tify the im­me­di­ate risk fac­tor and rapidly de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive plan to de­ci­sively deal with the pan­demic.

Go­ing by the suc­cess and gi­ant stride recorded in erad­i­cat­ing Po­lio diseases in Nige­ria by the Na­tional Pri­mary Health­care De­vel­op­ment Agency (NPHCDA) un­der the lead­er­ship of Dr. Ado JG Mo­hammed, it’s very im­per­a­tive that the fed­eral min­istry of Health come to the res­cue of mil­lions of Nige­ria of the hep­ati­tis dis­ease which many are yet to be aware of nei­ther its im­pli­ca­tion to. NPHCDA hav­ing the ca­pac­ity and man­power through its Mid­wives Ser­vice Schemes (MSS) and avail­abil­ity of Pri­mary Health­care Cen­tres across should be given more lo­gis­tic, tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port in cre­at­ing aware­ness and med­i­ca­tion just as its suc­cess­ful did with the case of Po­lio menin­gi­tis which is now a his­tory in Nige­ria. This can be achieved by mak­ing avail­able vac­cines and di­ag­nos­tic test ma­chines in ru­ral health cen­tre across the Coun­try.

A co­or­di­nated na­tional re­sponse in part­ner­ship with the state gov­ern­ment is needed to launch a mas­sive sen­si­ti­za­tion and aware­ness cam­paign, ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient sur­veil­lance and de­tec­tion of in­fec­tions so as to en­sure con­trol of th­ese diseases which is a ma­jor health challenge to our coun­try and the peo­ple. It is now ob­vi­ous with the fact fig­ures from the WHO that there is an ur­gent need to ex­pe­dite the de­vel­op­ment of mas­sive di­ag­nos­tic test cen­tres in our hos­pi­tals and ad­min­is­tra­tion of the vac­cines to pro­tect ev­ery Nige­rian now at risk.

As the world marks Hep­ati­tis Day to­day, I hope this will serve as a wakeup call to the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion that while mak­ing ef­fort to re­duce cor­rup­tion and im­prove econ­omy, the health of its cit­i­zens should not be com­pro­mise as larger pro­por­tion of Nige­ri­ans can­not af­ford med­i­cal tourism abroad.

Ya­haya wrote this piece from Jag­bele Quar­ters, Muye, Niger State. He can be reached at Dan­

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