COVID-19 jeopardising progress in eliminating viral hepatitis – NGO

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The Heartland Alliance International (HAI), a service-based human rights organisation committed to promoting the rights of vulnerable populations, says the coronavirus is jeopardising progress toward eliminating viral hepatitis.

The Chief Executive Officer of the organisation, Mr Bartholomew Ochonye, made the remarks in an interview with the told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.

Ochenye said this situation on viral hepatitis was not peculiar to Nigeria alone but cut across the globe.

He charged policymakers to scale up treatment for viral hepatitis virus infection in Nigeria and to also elevate it to a public health priority for adequate action.

The CEO said that the government should work toward reducing poverty, increasing health and preventing disease which is socially distributed.

“We see this with hepatitis, we see this with COVID-19,’’ he said.

He called for joint efforts to raise awareness about the disease in the country.

“Hepatitis could be eliminated or controlled in Nigeria if collaborative efforts are started and people are enlightened about the preventive measures on how to protect themselves from the lethal, blood-borne viral infection.

“In addition to coronavirus, there is an urgent need to create awareness about other communicable diseases, especially hepatitis B and C in Nigeria,’’ he said.

Ochonye complained about the poor interest of international donor agencies in sponsoring activities that could help people know more about the disease and precautionary measures against it.

He appealed for a commitment from government, individuals and corporate organisations to fight against hepatitis.

“I am concerned that the level of knowledge of the disease is low in Nigeria and that has been responsible for the rise in the figure of confirmed cases.

“Many are unaware that they are carrying the disease because of the high cost of testing.

“We are working with key populations in Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Lagos state to enlighten the people about hepatitis using different platforms.

“In a society where figures of diseases like HIV/AIDS are growing, largely because of increase in awareness, that of hepatitis is rising significantly due to poor knowledge about the disease.’’

“It should be a cause for concern for us all. Viral hepatitis is the only disease in Nigeria that is on the increase. Nigerians must improve on their health-seeking behaviour, though it has become complicated because of COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted socio-economic activities globally.

“People must be mindful of what they eat, drink and their lifestyle, particularly sexual related activities,’’ Ochonye said.

He commended the intervention of the Federal Government in the fight against hepatitis but requested for more actions, particularly on testing and vaccination. (NAN)

– Aug. 1, 2020 @ 9:12 GMT |

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