Juba 23 November: The fight against viral hepatitis is gaining momentum in South Sudan. The government with technical support from WHO, has embarked on a long and treacherous journey to eliminate viral hepatitis in the country. WHO in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and experts from Universities, medical specialists, public health professionals from MoH, and partners validated the draft practice guidelines for health professionals as well as the draft National plan to combat viral hepatitis. This measure is aimed at improving access to effective hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services in South Sudan.
It is estimated that at least one in ten adults test positive for either Viral Hepatitis B or C in South Sudan, the two main killers of the five types of hepatitis. Hepatitis E is also a common cause of outbreaks resulting in deaths due to acute hepatitis among displaced populations in internally displaced sites and refugee settings especially in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states. Individuals co-infected with both Hepatitis B and C, or with one of them and HIV or Tuberculosis (TB) isn’t uncommon. Co–infection rates for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) with TB are at 12.8% and 8.0% respectively. However, screening, diagnostic and treatment services coverage is quite low with only one in fifty people who are living with hepatitis able to know they are infected and access treatment.
‘To effectively address the Hepatitis in South Sudan, the Ministry of Health needs to strengthen management structures and coordination bodies at national and sub national levels. Furthermore, high impact interventions should be scaled up including the hepatitis B vaccination in children, strengthening injection safety programmes, treatment for HIV/Viral hepatitis co-infected individuals, and quality screening of blood to prevent hepatitis and other blood borne infections’, underscored Dr Nganda Moses Mutebi, WHO Medical Officer HIV/Hepatitis.
‘Greater action to improve visibility and understanding of viral hepatitis is needed in this fight. Now more than ever, is the need to improve the quality of service delivery for viral hepatitis treatment, prevention and control, and accelerate access to vaccination to populations most at risk. Government is urged to allocate and dedicate more funding to hepatitis response’ highlighted Dr Pinyi Nyimol, Director General Preventive Health Services MOH.
WHO is committed to support Ministry of Health to combat the burden due to Hepatitis in South Sudan.