Heartland Alliance International (HAI), a service-based human rights organization committed to protecting and promoting the rights of extremely vulnerable populations has attributed the rising cases of Hepatitis in Nigeria to lack of awareness among the people.
The organization also complained about the poor interest of the international donor agencies in activities that would help the people know more about the disease and possibly take precautionary measures against it.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Organization, Bartholomew Ochonye, who spoke at an event to mark the 2020 World Hepatitis Day in Abuja, appealed for a commitment from government and other individuals to the fight against Hepatitis.
He said: “I am concerned that the level of knowledge of the disease is low in Nigeria and that has been responsible for the rise in figure of confirmed cases. Many are unaware that they are carrying the disease because of high cost of testing.
“We are working with key populations to enlighten the people about Hepatitis using different platforms and also, our 25 centers across three states, namely, Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Cross River, to do that.
“In a society where figures of diseases like HIV/AIDS are going largely because of increase in awareness, that of Hepatitis is rising significantly due to poor knowledge about the disease. It should be a cause for concern for us all. Viral hepatitis is the only disease in Nigeria that is on the increase.
“People must improve on their health seeking behavior, even though it has become complicated because of COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted socioeconomic activities, globally. People must be mindful of what they eat, drink and other lifestyle particularly sexual related activities.”
He commended the intervention of the Federal Government in the fight against Hepatitis, but requested for more actions, particularly in the areas of testing and vaccination.
Meanwhile, an official of Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Clement Adesegbe, in a presentation painted gory pictures of the Hepatitis situation in Nigeria, challenging all stakeholders to rise to the occasion to avoid being “consumed” by the disease.
He suggested that funds be raised, domestically, to support the fight against the disease, since notable international donor agencies are yet to financially support the fight against Hepatitis.
“We have to look inward to get solutions to the problem. Interestingly, states government are beginning to show positive response by committing their finances. Nasarawa and Lagos states have committed funds to the project against Hepatitis. We are, equally, getting positive responses from Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara and Cross River States.