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World Hepatitis Day: Pandemic hampers fight against disease

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This year's World Hepatitis Day comes when the world is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. 

Experts are concerned that as the pandemic forces economies to contract and governments to make spending decisions based on stretched budgets, the target to eliminate Hepatitis by 2030 could be missed.

The disease kills by causing the inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D and E, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to claim thousands of lives every day.

The WHO says disruptions caused by Covid-19 could contribute around 5.3 million additional chronic Hepatitis B infections among children born between 2020 and 2030 and 1 million additional HBV-related deaths among those children later on.

Hence the organisations strategy which empahsizes Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of Hepatitis B, in its campaign to end the disaese. 

Almost 95% of cases which eventually grow into liver cancer are transmitted from to child.

In Uganda where the disease is endemic, the government has made testing for the disaese free of charge. Vaccination against the disaese has also been made free. But health workers restrictions on movement caused by Covid-19 have hurt tge success of the exercise, a concern shared by campiagners elsewhere.

Countries have decried the lack of critical infrastructure needed to detect and treat Hepatitis.

Diagnosing hepatitis C previously required complex labs and specialist technicians, making testing expensive and inaccessible.

Despite progress made in recent years with diagnosing the disease, the burden of Hepatitis continues to disproportionately fall on society's most vulnerable; the Marginalized, displaced and poor populations.

Countries such as Egypt and Rwanda have been hailed for moving towards eliminating the disease. They have scaled up testing and treatment.