More than 91 million Africans live with Hepatitis B or C, which are the deadliest strains of the virus, according to a World Health Organisation scorecard.
The Viral Hepatitis Scorecard 2021 looks at data from the African region but focuses on Hepatitis B and C, both of which cause liver cirrhosis and cancer. It found that in 19 countries, more than eight percent of the population is infected with Hepatitis B, while in 18 countries, more than one percent of the population lives with Hepatitis C.
In 2020, the African region accounted for 26 percent of the global burden for Hepatitis B and C and 125,000 associated deaths.
The scorecard showed that around 70 percent of Hepatitis B infections worldwide occur in Africa.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said hepatitis was a silent epidemic, but this scorecard is sounding an alarm for the region and the world to hear.
“We must do better and stop this disease from stealing away our children’s future. There is a safe and effective vaccine that offers nearly 100 percent protection against Hepatitis B, one of the deadliest strains of the virus.”
“We must ensure that all African children are vaccinated within 24 hours of their birth and are followed up with two or more doses of the vaccine,” Moeti said.
The scorecard found that coverage for routine childhood vaccination against Hepatitis B is 72 percent for the region, well below the global target of 90 percent needed to ensure that the virus is no longer a public health menace.
World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28 annually and this year’s theme is ‘Bringing hepatitis care close to you.’