On 28 July 2017, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Medical Research Council (MRC) and other partners commemorated World Hepatitis Day under the theme: “Test. Treat. Hepatitis". To mark this important event a series of activities were conducted to raise awareness among the population. .
The WHO Representative, Dr. Desta Tiruneh used the main event on the day of the commemoration to explain the five types of viruses responsible for most cases of viral hepatitis and their mode of transmission. . He stressed the urgent action needed in The Gambia where nearly 10% of our population is infected with Hepatitis B. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on the international community to combat hepatitis, and for inclusive approaches that promote equity and universal health coverage to ensure no one is left behind”
He commended the Ministry of Health for developing a National Hepatitis Policy and Strategic Plan for the country with a clear vision and goals and urged the Government to invest in the hepatitis response by investing domestic funding and providing testing and treatment facilities by leveraging on the existing health infrastructure for HIV.
He re-assured partners of WHO’s continued support to Member States to implement the hepatitis strategy to eliminate hepatitis as a public health problem in the African region noting, “now is the time to Test, the time to Treat, and the time to Cure Hepatitis”.
The Permanent Secretary Mr. Jaiteh, deputizing for the Minister Hon. Isatou Touray described the day as a further demonstration of the Ministry’s commitment to controlling hepatitis B in the general population bearing in mind that the Gambia was the test ground for the introduction of hepatitis B vaccination in routine immunization services. He paid tribute to the contributions and support of the WHO, MRC, the Government of the Gambia and other partners in ensuring that this became a reality.
He also thanked the WHO, MRC, GHIS (Gambia Hepatitis Intervention Study) as well as staff of his Ministry for spearheading the commemoration of World Hepatis Day in the Gambia. He pledged his Ministry’s fullest support to the hepatitis campaign as well as its commitment to working with partners in addressing this public health problem. He urged the organizing team to work closely with the health promotion directorate in ensuring that the general public is aware of hepatitis and how to prevent it as a public health problem in the Gambia.
Speaking earlier, Dr. Ramou Njie, a specialist in liver diseases and head of the Gambia Hepatitis Intervention Study (GHIS) based at the MRC, gave a brief history of hepatitis in the country noting that it was very common in Gambian children before 1980s but added that since they started introducing immunization at the clinic level to date, only those who were not fortunate to receive the vaccine are the most at risk.
Dr. Njie gave an overview of the “PROLIFICA project, the first HBV treatment programme in Sub-Saharan Africa, aimed to determine whether treatment of HBV with a drug called Tenofovir can prevent the development of liver cancer in those who are infected”,
She encouraged people to go for screening to know their status.
The occasion was chaired by Mr. Momodou Njai, Director Health Promotion Directorate of the ministry.
The ceremony was attended by senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Social welfare, MRC, IAARC, WHO and the Media fraternity. Free Hepatitis screening was offered to the general public during the celebration which was held at a busy and popular part of Serrekunda. A total of 73 people were tested of which 6 were found to be positive for Hepatitis. They were promptly counselled and enrolled in to the MRC Hepatitis treatment program for further investigations and treatment.