Hepatitis: WHO harps on need for increased surveillance to reduce prevalence

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has underscored the importance for Nigeria to set up a routine surveillance system to monitor viral hepatitis programme intervention, as well as meet up with global reporting obligations.

Viral Hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver cells and damage to the liver. There are different types and causes, but the symptoms can be similar.

The liver’s functions include detoxifying the blood, storing vitamins, and producing hormones. Hepatitis can disrupt these processes and create severe health problems throughout the body.

At least five viruses can cause hepatitis. The three most common are hepatitis viruses A, B and C. Infection with any of these three can be fatal.

Dr Oluwafunke Ilesanmi, National Professional Officer, WHO Nigeria, said this in Abuja at a Capacity and Consensus Building workshop for National Viral Hepatitis Surveillance.

The workshop was jointly organised by WHO and the Federal Ministry of Health.
Ilesanmi said that the government and people needed to continue to take ownership of the hepatitis response in the nation.

According to her, viral hepatitis programme is based on five core interventions: vaccines, prevention of mother to child transmission of Hepatitis B virus, injection, blood and surgical safety, harm reduction of people who inject drugs and treatment.

She stated that as a result of the spread of this intervention across different agencies, harmonisation and synergies for reporting must be put in a proper perspective, in order to set up routine surveillance systems.

The WHO National Professional Officer called on all stakeholders to ensure mobilisation of sufficient domestic resources for tackling the diseases.

In his address, Dr Araoye Segilola, the National Coordinator, National AIDS, STI and Hepatitis Control Programme,(NASCP), said that the ministry was leading other stakeholders to create more awareness on viral hepatitis and would give nationwide visibility, to eliminate the deadly disease in the country.

Nigeria has a high burden of Viral Hepatitis B and C at a prevalence rate of 11.2 per cent and 2.0 per cent respectively. WHO supported Nigeria to develop and launch a National policy, strategic plan, treatment guidelines and training documents for viral hepatitis.

We have also established a state-level programme to tackle the disease among the states’ residents, “he said.

Dr Clement Adesigbin, an official of NASCP, said that to eliminate viral hepatitis in Nigeria, there was need for funding and political commitment.

Adesigbin, said that there was need for all stakeholders to be committed to making available hepatitis preventive and treatment services, in all health care facilities in the country.
He therefore urged the media to scale up dissemination of correct hepatitis information for widespread enlightenment.

L.Nasir