150,000 new hepatitis cases reported each year in Pakistan: WHO

ISLAMABAD, Jul 28 (APP):World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said that an estimated 8 million people are living with Hepatitis C – more than 10% of the world’s total, and another 4 million are estimated infected with Hepatitis B in Pakistan.

According to WHO, Pakistan is facing numerous challenges in hepatitis response as approximately 150,000 new cases are reported each year in the country. It added it has the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C (5%) globally and has the highest number of people suffering from HCV after China.

The country situation is further manifested with extremely low birth dose coverage and minimal testing especially for hepatitis B, which is important for early diagnosis of individuals who are already chronically infected with HBV. “It is time to raise our commitment and work towards the Hepatitis targets, as set out in the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. World Hepatitis Day 2020 is an opportunity to deliver to our population a promise of a hepatitis free future,” it added.

“On this important occasion of World Hepatitis Day, we need to reemphasize the principle of Health for All by All and our goal to achieving universal health coverage (UHC). It is time to boost the action in the country and invest in our future generations.”WHO Representative in Pakistan Dr Palitha Mahipala, reiterated WHO’s full support and commitment for a Hepatitis free future and assured the government of Pakistan in implementing its plans to eliminate hepatitis B and C epidemics in the country.“Our joint commitment and efforts would contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This is a long road ahead, but today we can take a small step with one commitment that will take us closer to a hepatitis free future.”

Mahipala said “We take this opportunity to assure the full commitment of WHO to work hand in hand with national and the provincial programmes to further strengthen nationals’ response, provide the support needed to maintain hepatitis core interventions, to integrate service delivery arrangements, to reach universal health coverage and eliminate hepatitis.”

He said that for World Hepatitis Day 2020, WHO is focusing on the achievable dream of a hepatitis free future and reminding the world that it is vital to maintain services, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region moving towards this goal.

“This means leaving no one behind and expanding access to testing and treatment, especially for people who may be underserved, such as prison inmates or people who use drugs,” he added.

It is vital to ensure uninterrupted hepatitis B vaccination programmes and to scale up hepatitis B and C testing and treatment services. Globally, 325 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and C. They affect 21 million and 15 million people respectively in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, and are root causes of liver scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.  These conditions lead to mortality, which could be prevented by timely testing and treatment and, in the case of hepatitis B, vaccination, WHO added.

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