By Asmau Ahmad
World Health Organisation (WHO) has canvassed for the inclusion of hepatitis treatment under the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).
The organisation’s Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, said this on Friday in Abuja at an event to commemorate the 2023 World Hepatitis Day, annually marked on July 28 to raise awareness about the disease.
The BHCPF is a key component of the National Health Insurance Act, aimed at extending Primary Health Care (PHC) to all Nigerians by substantially increasing the level of financial resources to PHC services.
It is expected to provide free minimum basic healthcare to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians through accredited PHCs in each of the 36 states and the FCT.
The WHO country representative, therefore, said that to reduce the burden of the disease in Nigeria, the country has to do things differently.
He added that “in Nigeria, we have several initiatives. We have the BHCPF that is supposed to facilitate access to services for the vulnerable.
“Is it the minimum service package guaranteed under the BHCPF, including services, screening and treatment for hepatitis.
“If not, this is the right time to really rethink the strategy beyond this yearly celebration. We really need to get serious in what our package contains.
“We know that Hepatitis is also a cause of cancer, do we have screening services for cancer that result from Hepatitis?
“If not, we have to revisit the package, otherwise BHCPF may not reach the target that we want to achieve.”
Dr Mulombo also said that strong PHC services should be made available and increasingly funded through domestic resources.
He encouraged policymakers and partners to demonstrate political commitment to sustain and simplify hepatitis testing, prevention and treatment as part of the broader liver health and primary care to achieve viral hepatitis elimination.
On the theme of the 2023 celebration “One Life, One Liver,” he said it seeks to emphasise the link between viral hepatitis infection and liver inflammation and the broader issues of liver health and PHCs.
He said that more than 91 million Africans are living with hepatitis and that in 2019, an estimated 1.2 million new hepatitis infections and 125,000 hepatitis-related deaths occurred in the African Region.
He, however, said that WHO’s global hepatitis strategy, endorsed by all WHO Member States, and the Framework for an Integrated multi-sectoral response to Tuberculosis, HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Hepatitis in the WHO African Region aims to reduce new hepatitis infections by 90 per cent and deaths by 65 per cent by 2030.