BusinessDay

Over 18 million Nigerians suffering from viral hepatitis – Minister

Over18. 2 million Nigerians are infected with viral hepatitis, but awareness, reporting, diagnosis, and treatment of Hepatitis B and C remains low in Nigeria, Osagie Ehanire, minister of health disclosed on Wednesday.

The minister decried that the mortality rate from hepatitis B and C is still alarming despite global progress in addressing the scourge.

The minister said 16 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B and 2.2 million with Hepatitis C, which represents estimated prevalence rates of 8.1 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.

“In 2019, 3.8 percent of the world’s population was living with Chronic Hepatitis B Virus infection and 0.75 percent with Hepatitis C infection”, he added.

Ehanire said these at a press conference to commemorate the 2021 World Hepatitis Day with the theme “Hepatitis Can’t Wait!”

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According to him, the 2021 theme aptly urges continuous effort to manage and mitigate hepatitis in Nigeria.

” We adopted the national sub-theme “National Ownership and Financing for Viral Hepatitis Elimination”, as a clarion call to action by all stakeholders and acknowledge the need to increase engagement to realise the desired changes”, he said.

On efforts to tackle hepatitis, Ehanire said the Federal Ministry of Health introduced policy documents and guidance for action with partner support, but regrets that ensuring optimal access to service remains a challenge, while out-of-pocket payment is still the main source for financing treatment.

“The government recognises the urgent need to address out-of-pocket payment, and improve sustainable financing, to be on course to the elimination targets”, he said.

In view of Nigeria’s commitment to the 2030 Viral Hepatitis Elimination plan, Ehanire said it is essential to improve community engagement, political leadership, testing and treatment, and scale up high-impact interventions.

He called on all Nigerians to work together to eliminate the “silent killer”, viral hepatitis by visiting a health facility to get screened.

In his goodwill address, Walter Mulombo , the World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative for Nigeria, stated that more than 90 million people are living with hepatitis in the African Region, accounting for 26 percent of the global total.

He also disclosed that around 4.5 million African children under five years old are infected with chronic hepatitis B, reflecting an enormous 70 percent of the global burden in this age group.

Mulombo informed that the global target of less than 1 percent incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 years has been reached, but said the African Region is lagging at 2.5 percent

He however note that Nigeria is among the 14 countries implementing hepatitis B birth-dose vaccine, and routinely screen all donated blood and blood products for HBV and HCV.