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World Hepatitis Day: No Fewer than 91 million Africans Live with Hepatitis – WHO

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this on Friday in her message to commemorate 2023 World Hepatitis Day with the theme, “One Life, One Liver”.

Ms Moeti said the theme sought to emphasise the link between viral hepatitis infection and liver inflammation, that is, liver injury and damage and the broader issues of liver health and primary health care.

According to her, 1.2 million new hepatitis infections were detected in 2019 alone, and most of the population’s young and active members died from the disease.

Ms Moeti said the most common types of hepatitis in Africa included hepatitis B and C, which could be transmitted through contaminated blood, unprotected sexual activity, or from mother to child during childbirth.

The WHO official said infection with the hepatitis B virus is preventable by vaccination, while doctors can now successfully treat hepatitis C, caused by the hepatitis C virus, with antiviral drugs.

She WHO supports regional and national efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 by providing clear guidance for decentralised and simplified person-centred prevention, testing and treatment of viral hepatitis.

She said the support also included eliminating hepatitis B through birth dose vaccination (the day of birth or the day after).

Ms Moeti said much still needed to be done to reduce hepatitis-related deaths and infections.

“Despite the availability of diagnostic tools and effective treatment, more than 90 per cent of people living with hepatitis in Africa do not receive the care they need.

“And less than 10 per cent of the population has access to testing and treatment,” she said.

According to her, this leads to progressive advanced liver disease, devastating financial burden, emotional distress and stigma.

“The highest burden of hepatitis B infection in children below five years of age is seen in countries without hepatitis B vaccination at birth. Immunisation, thus, is an important component in the fight against hepatitis,” she said.

Ms Moeti said all must make services available through strong primary health care services increasingly funded through domestic resources.