The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire has disclosed that about 20 million Nigerians are currently infected with Hepatitis B or C.

The Minister made the disclosure in Abuja on Monday at the launching of the strategic framework for viral hepatitis and the flag-off ceremony of a nationwide hepatitis awareness campaign, in commemoration of this year’s World Hepatitis Day titled, “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer to You”.

According to Ehanire, there was very low awareness about the infections in the country.

The Minister explained that the infections were under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated, regretting that the stigma and discrimination against those infected also posed challenges in the country.

Walter Kazadi Mulombo, Nigeria’s Representative to the World Health Organisation, explained that in Africa, Nigeria had one of the highest burdens of viral hepatitis, with a national hepatitis B prevalence rate of 8.1 percent and a hepatitis C prevalence rate of 1.1 percent among adults aged 15-64 years.

He further explained that Nigeria was contributing to the global achievement of the reduction of hepatitis B infections in children with the introduction of the hepatitis B birth dose and the pentavalent vaccine into routine childhood immunization schedules in 2004.

He enjoined the government of Nigeria to mobilise domestic funds for a national hepatitis B and C treatment programme in the country.

The Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Oliver Stolpe, noted that to effectively raise awareness about hepatitis care, the focus should be on vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, such as people injecting drugs, as well as people in custodial centres, believing that the prevalence was higher in prisons compared to the general population.

20 million Nigerians infected with Hepatitis B, C – Minister