WHO urges to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030

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ISLAMABAD, Jul 27 (APP):Country Representative, World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Palitha Mahipala has urged for making efforts at all levels to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health problem by 2030.

In a message on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, he said, “This year, we are commemorating the World Hepatitis Day amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said, “World Hepatitis Day is an occasion to reflect on our commitment towards the continuity of hepatitis services and the elimination targets, called by the Global Health Sector Strategy and embedded in our regional vision Health for All by All”.

He said that the theme of world hepatitis day this year is “Hepatitis can’t wait”. “With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness – even in the current COVID-19 crisis – we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis.”

He said that the country was still facing numerous challenges in hepatitis response. It has the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C (5%) globally and has the highest number of people suffering from HCV.

He said that COVID-19 further challenged our response and our essential health services, including vaccination, diagnosis, and care. “Despite the challenges, we must not lose sight of our goals of achieving universal health coverage as part of our regional vision Health for All by All.”

Dr. Palitha said “Successful elimination requires scaling up to five key recommended interventions. We need to vaccinate infants against hepatitis B, prevent mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus, ensure blood and injection safety, reduce harm among people who inject drugs, and implement testing with a view to treatment.”

He said that with the establishment of a national program at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Pakistan has led the way over the last few years in hepatitis C testing and treatment and thanked the strong political commitment made by the government and support of the provincial departments of health.

“But still, people are getting infected with viral hepatitis viruses in the health care settings, precisely where they would expect to be safe. Unsafe injection continues to be a driving source of hepatitis B and C virus infections and other blood-borne diseases such as HIV.”

He added, at the same time, the coverage of hepatitis B birth dose vaccination – a key intervention to prevent mother to child transmission of hepatitis B virus was still very low and far from achieving the needed target. “Such coverage hinders our efforts to achieve a hepatitis-free future for our new generations.”

“I will reiterate commitment to eliminating viral hepatitis and encourage a concerted effort among the relevant programmes, civil society, and their partners to renew our commitments and efforts for eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.”