African region

Situation:

  • Hepatitis B is highly endemic and affects an estimated 60 million people, mainly in West and Central Africa.
  • An estimated 19 million adults are chronically infected with hepatitis C.
  • Although not well documented, hepatitis D is endemic in Central and West Africa in particular.
  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis E outbreaks are common due to poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water, with recent outbreaks of infection reported in Namibia, Niger and Chad.
  • Hepatitis is also a growing cause of mortality among people living with HIV. About 2.3 million people living with HIV are coinfected with hepatitis C virus and 2.6 million with hepatitis B virus.

Response:

  • In 2016, the region launched a regional framework to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
  • The hepatitis B vaccine is administered in all 47 Member States and coverage of the three-dose childhood vaccination is 77%. However, hepatitis B birth-dose was introduced in few countries with a low regional coverage at 11%.
  • Forty countries (out of 54) report testing 100% of all blood donations for all transfusion transmitted infections, which include hepatitis B and C.

Tackling the scourge of viral hepatitis effectively will require significant human and financial resources. I therefore call upon countries in the Region to develop strategies to scale up access to counselling, testing and treatment for hepatitis B and C especially in poor and at-risk communities

Dr Luís Gomes Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa

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