By Ritah Kemigisa
The World Health Organisation is concerned that more than 90 million people are living with hepatitis in Africa.
According to the WHO Africa regional director Dr Matshidiso Moeti, this figure accounts for 26% of the global total.
This is contained in her commemorative message for World Hepatitis Day, marked every July 28th to increase awareness of the disease.
Moeti is concerned that in Africa, the disease that inflames the liver and can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis is a silent pandemic, claiming the lives of more than 124,000 Africans every year.
She also notes that around 4.5m African children under the age of five are infected with chronic hepatitis B, reflecting an enormous 70% of the global burden in this age group.
“The global target of less than 1% incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 years has been reached, but the African Region is lagging behind at 2.5%”, Dr Moeti says in a statement.
She adds that these cases could be prevented by eliminating mother-to-child transmission of the disease, during or shortly after birth and in early childhood.
The WHO also calls on all countries to rapidly improve access to services to prevent, diagnose and treat hepatitis.
This year’s theme is “hepatitis can’t wait”