By Franca Ofili
Abuja, July 28, 2020 Dr Mike Omotosho, the President, Nigerian Commission Hepatitis Zero, has called on government at all levels to commit more funds to address the issue of hepatitis in the country.
Omotosho, who is the president of the commission representative to the African Union, made the call in a statement in Abuja on Monday as Nigeria marks the World Hepatitis Day 2020.
Celebrated annually on July 28 to bring to the fore, the challenges faced by sufferers of the disease, the global theme for 2020 is “Hepatitis Free Future.”
Hepatitis is a disease that involves inflammation of the liver, commonly caused by viral infection, categorised into Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, with different viruses responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
Omotosho said “as Nigeria marks the World Hepatitis Day 2020, we call on government at all levels to commit more funds to increase the yawning financial gap and barriers for every Nigerian to access free testing and vaccination to create a future free of hepatitis.”
He stated that most people living with hepatitis lacked access to testing and vaccination facilities, which are preventive measures.
He said that according to the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest burden of viral hepatitis with a prevalence of 11 per cent of Hepatitis B and 2.2 per cent of Hepatitis C.
He added that “in Nigeria, there is a strong relationship between Hepatitis B Virus and various forms of Chronic Liver Disease (CLD), including chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
“Overall, the risk factors in Nigeria include local circumcision, local uvulectomy, and scarification on the body, tribal marks, surgical procedures, body piercing, delivery at home and receiving blood transfusion.”
Omotosho said that the level of knowledge of viral hepatitis remaine low among Nigerians in spite of the fact that it’s a leading infectious cause of death and claims the lives of many each year.
“As a consequence, most of the 17-21 million Nigerians estimated to be living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.
“Viral hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in Nigeria,” he said.
He added that eliminating hepatitis by 2030 as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) would require enduring innovation, better access to medicines and improved health services.
He said that WHO’s new recommendation was that everybody should have access to hepatitis C testing and curative treatment and also global health communities should come together to officially begin moving toward the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030.
The Global Hepatitis Eradication Initiative is a commission dedicated to a vision of a Hepatiti-free world through advocacy, screening, prophylaxis and treatment.
The commission is present in 115 countries around the world, including Nigeria, where the project is driven by the Hepatitis Zero Nigerian Commission.
He said that the Nigerian Commission of the Hepatitis Zero, as its custom was having the Hepatitis Zero Week which would be a time of deliberations and enlightenment geared toward fulfilling the mandate of achieving zero hepatitis.
Omotosho noted that the commission would carry out the following events: July, 28 the First Ladies’ hepatitis roundtable (Webinar), July 29, Pan African Hepatitis Zero stakeholders meeting (Webinar), July 30, a media conference (Live Streaming).
Others are on July 31, an online stakeholders meeting (webinar), while there will be Monday to Friday free screening and vaccination exercise.