Health World Hepatitis Day: WHO Africa urges govts to integrate...

World Hepatitis Day: WHO Africa urges govts to integrate prevention into antenatal care

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As the world marks Hepatitis Day tomorrow, July 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa is calling on governments in the continent to fully integrate the prevention of the disease into antenatal care services in their health institutions to help reduce the fatality rates.

This was contained in a message to countries in Africa by the WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

According to the organization, in Africa, hepatitis is a silent epidemic where more than 90 million people are living with disease in the Region, accounting for 26 percent of the global total.

Also, more than 124,000 Africans are dying every year from the consequences of undetected and untreated hepatitis.

But with intensified efforts by countries the number of deaths recorded each year can be reduced thereby joining the rest of the world to meet the global target of less than 1 percent incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 years of which the African Region is lagging behind at 2.5 percent.

This year theme, “hepatitis can’t wait” is a call to countries to rapidly improve access to services to prevent, diagnose and treat hepatitis.

This can be achieved by countries keying into the various interventions against hepatitis B which include vaccination at birth and in early childhood, screening pregnant women, and providing timely treatment.

Most of these cases could be prevented by eliminating mother-to-child transmission of the disease, during or shortly after birth and in early childhood. Key

While treatment of the disease has been subsidised the WHO Africa Region is urging other governments to join the league of countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Benin Republic who have established free testing and treatment programmes for hepatitis, and 16 other countries that are starting pilot projects in this direction.

More importantly, collaborative efforts from key partners, such as the Organization of African First Ladies for Development is needed to achieve the desired goal.

“I urge all stakeholders in maternal and child health to consider how hepatitis can be integrated into existing initiatives such as the First Ladies “free to shine” initiative which is working in countries for an AIDS-free generation in Africa.

“Health systems also play vital roles in preventing transmission by making sure blood donations are screened and that syringes are only used once and then safely disposed. Finally, I want to encourage individuals to seek testing and treatment for hepatitis and to learn more about this disease, to end the silent epidemic,” Dr Moeti stated.

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