ABUJA – (Federal Ministry of Health Report) – The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole (Prof) has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Government to the elimination of Viral Hepatitis in Nigeria by the year 2030.
The Minister made this statement during the Press Briefing to commemorate the 2018 World Hepatitis Day with the theme: “Test, Treat, Hepatitis” and the launching of the National Directory on Viral Hepatitis Services Document in Abuja recently. He noted that whilst 22 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B and roughly 4 million infected with Hepatitis C, the case of Viral Hepatitis has been more common amongst people between the ages of 21 and 40 years.
He described as sad that whilst mortality from tuberculosis and HIV is on the decline, the number of deaths from Viral Hepatitis is on the increase as reported in the WHO Report of 2017. The Minister identified the risk factors to include: local circumcision, local uvelectomy, scarification on the body and predisposing factors such as surgical procedures, deliveries that occur at home and blood transfusions. He stressed that out of the over 300 million people living with Viral Hepatitis globally, 90% of them do not know their status.
“In Nigeria, the knowledge of Viral Hepatitis has remained low even though it is a leading cause of death. As a result, most Nigerians living with Viral Hepatitis B or C are un-diagnosed, increasing the likelihood of transmission to others. It also places the individuals at the greater risk of severe and fatal health complications such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma),” he stated.
Isaac Adewole mentioned that the Federal Ministry of Health has been working with partners and pharmaceutical companies to facilitate the provision of anti-viral drugs for the management of Hepatitis B and the treatment and cure for Hepatitis C at the lowest possible price. He advised that people need to know their status by going to any nearby facility to be screened. While indicating that it takes less than 15 minutes to do this, he appealed to everyone to endeavour to save his liver in due time.
In his remarks at the occasion, Nigeria’s former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon (Gen), who is the National Goodwill Ambassador for the control of Viral Hepatitis in Nigeria said that more funds will be required to properly deal with the health problems of the nation. He urged the Federal and State Governments to seriously give consideration to upward review of the annual budgetary allocations to the Federal and State Ministries of Health to a provision that can better reduce the burden of Viral Hepatitis and the recursion to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to improve on the quality and access to medical facilities across the country.
In his goodwill message, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Wondi Alemu (Dr) represented by Rex Mpazanje (Dr) pledged the continued support of WHO to Nigeria by making more simplified Hepatitis B and C diagnostic and treatment services available, accessible and affordable towards achieving a free Viral Hepatitis country come 2030.