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NAHSL urges improved surveillance on viral hepatitis

July 27, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

The National Alliance for Hepatitis Sierra Leone (NAHSL) yesterday called on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other health stakeholders to improve surveillance on viral hepatitis at health facilities across the country.

On Thursday, 28 July, 2016 Sierra Leone would join other countries in the world to observe this year’s World Hepatitis Day on the theme: “Know Hepatitis – Act Now”.

The day was set aside by the World Health Organisation in 2010 as one of only four official disease-specific world health days to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, and to call for access to treatment, better prevention programmes and governments action.

Speaking during a presser in the conference room of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), NAHSL Acting President Kweku Mensah revealed that viral hepatitis kill close to 1.4 million people annually, mostly from hepatitis B and C.

According to him, an estimated 95 percent of people with the disease are unaware they have it, adding that it affects hundreds of millions of people, causing acute and chronic liver disease.

He stated that during the 69th World Health Assembly in May 2016, member countries adopted a Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, a strategy which calls on member countries to treat eight million people for hepatitis B or C by 2020.

Mr. Mensah urged the health ministry and other stakeholders to ensure the test for viral hepatitis, especially B and C, is readily accessible and affordable at all health facilities, while at the same time stepping up efforts to roll out a national health sector strategy, in line with the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis.

“In Sierra Leone, Hepatitis B and C are the most prevalent infections. Studies show that the prevalence of Hepatitis B among selected groups is up to 10%,” he said and noted that one of the greatest challenges in fighting viral hepatitis was access to data on prevalence among the population.

With regards the work of the alliance since 2014, Mr. Mensah said they have begun series of campaigns to raise awareness among students within the Western Area, whom they screen for Hepatitis B free of charge, while also providing counseling and referring reactive cases to partner health facilities where treatment can be accessed.

He concluded by urging the public to get tested at approved health facilities and laboratories in order to know their status.

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