BY PRUDENCE IJAH,ABUJA
The Former Head of State Retired General Yakubu Gowon has called on the federal government to urgently develop a National treatment program to address the rising cases of Viral Hepatitis in the Country.
Nigeria’s goodwill Ambassador for Viral Hepatitis who made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at a briefing to commemorate World Hepatitis day advocated for increased access to Hepatitis testing and improved care for Hepatitis patients.
Dr Gowon in his words said “I therefore plead and urge the federal and all state governments to seriously give consideration to an upward review to the annual budgetary allocation to the federal and state ministries of health to a bench mark that can reduce the burden of viral hepatitis and inclusion of Hepatitis treatment coverage into the national health insurance scheme (NHIS) to improve the quality and access to medical facilities across the country.
As we launch today the national directory of viral hepatitis services in Nigeria, we call on the federal government to utilise the ongoing Nigeria AIDS indicators and Impact Survey NAIIS to determine viral hepatitis burden in Nigeria.”
The Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole while launching the Directory for Viral Hepatitis Services in Nigeria, said the directory will help improve access to care for people infected with Hepatitis as out of over 300 million people living with Viral Hepatitis globally, 90% of them do not know their status adding that the knowledge of Viral Hepatitis is low in Nigeria despite it being a leading cause of death.
Adewole while quoting the World Health Organization report of 2017 said that 22 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B while roughly 4 million people are infected with Hepatitis C.
The Minister said “there are other sub-types of the Viral agents that are responsible for Hepatitis, such as Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis D Virus, while Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96% of all mortality due to Viral Hepatitis. Nigeria has a prevalence of 11% for Hepatitis B and 2.2% for Hepatitis C respectively”
In his address, the WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondi Alemu, said cost effective medicines are now available to control hepatitis B infection and prevent liver disease while for Hepatitis C, the available medicines can cure the infection in almost all patients within 12 weeks. He addded that the Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth, together with infant vaccination, also helps to prevents over 95% of new infections.
Dr Alemu pledged that WHO will continue to support Nigeria to walk the path of making more simplified hepatitis B and C diagnostic and treatment services available, accessible and affordable towards a vision of Africa free of viral hepatitis by 2030.
Hepatitis is simply an inflammation of the tissues of the liver. Some of the common symptoms include poor appetite, tiredness, vomiting, yellow discoloration of the skin and the white portion of the eye.
The risk factors of hepatitis includes local circumcision, local uvelectomy, and scarifications on the body while other predisposing factors includes surgical procedures, deliveries that occur at home and blood transfusion amongst others.
World Hepatitis Day is marked every 28th July to raise awareness on the need for everyone to get tested and access treatment if infected. The theme of this year is hinged on “now is the time to Test, the time to Treat, and the time to Cure Hepatitis