The UN health agency gave the update on its regional official Twitter account @WHOAFRO.
The New Agency of Nigeria reports that the number of deaths increased to 43,000 as at Nov. 3 against 41,000 as at Oct. 26.
Also, the numbers of recoveries have increased from 1.3 million in Oct. 26 to 1.4 million as at Nov. 3, according to the figures on the WHO dashboard.
The dashboard shows that the number of confirmed cases still remains over 1.7 million.
They advised that the pandemic still constituted a public health emergency of international concern and urged a focus on response efforts based on lessons learned and strong science.
The committee expressed appreciation for WHO’s leadership and activities throughout the global response, including its critical role in developing evidence-based guidance and providing countries with technical assistance.
It also appreciated WHO for its role in providing critical supplies and equipment, communicating clear information and addressing misinformation, and convening the Solidarity Trials and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
The committee provided concrete and targeted advice for WHO and countries to focus on in the coming months.
It emphasised the importance of evidence-informed, risk-based and coherent measures in relation to international traffic, surveillance and contact tracing efforts.
The committee also recommended maintaining essential health services including mental health services, and preparing plans for future COVID-19 vaccines.
It urged countries to avoid making the pandemic response political as it’s a major detriment to global efforts.
As the committee convened for the fifth time, global reported cases had reached 44 million, with over 1.1 million people having lost their lives to COVID-19.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz
Its Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, gave the advice during a news briefing from Geneva on Monday.
Ghebreyesus said he had observed the eagerness of countries to “get their economies going again”, eight months into the coronavirus pandemic.
According to him, if countries are serious about opening, they must prioritise suppression of transmission and safety of lives.
He warned that opening up without efficient and effective prevention measures in place was “a recipe for disaster”.
Ghebreyesus said this might seem an impossible balance, but it could be done if countries were in control of transmission.
“The more control they have, the more they can open. The reality is that coronavirus spreads easily.
“It can be fatal for people of all ages and most people remain susceptible.
“To control transmission, it is essential to prevent events that lead to outbreaks,” he said.
The virus spreads efficiently among clusters of people, the WHO boss stated, adding that “explosive outbreaks” are linked to gatherings at sports stadiums, nightclubs and places of worship.
While noting that there were ways to hold gatherings safely, Ghebreyesus said decisions about how and when must be made with a risk-based approach, tailored to local conditions.
He said countries experiencing significant community transmission might need to postpone such events.
Those seeing sporadic cases or small clusters, on the other hand, can find creative ways to hold events while minimising risk.
He called for emphasis on reduction of deaths by protecting the elderly, people with underlying conditions and essential workers.
“Countries that do this well may be able to cope with low levels of transmission as they open.
“Individuals must play their part by staying at least one metre away from others, cleaning their hands regularly, practicing respiratory etiquette by wearing a mask and avoiding close-contact settings.
“For governments, widespread stay-at-home orders can be avoided if they take temporary, geographically targeted interventions.
“It is important to find, isolate, test and care for COVID-19 cases – and both trace and quarantine contacts,” he said.
Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Ehanire said that Nigeria had as of August, 19, 2020, crossed the 50,000 landmark and recorded 50,488 COVID-19 cases, this was out of 366,244 samples tested so far, of which 37,304 persons were successfully treated and discharged.
“We have sadly had 985 fatalities, which is also a reminder to us all, that COVID-19 has not abated.
“Male preponderance remains high, with more infections in the age group below 50 years, but more fatalities in the higher age brackets and among the vulnerable with comorbidities.
“The changing dynamics of the virus and the disease make it necessary for us to continue to review our response strategies, ensure we train and update our health workers on the latest and most effective approach to treatment of the disease and tailor our procurement in the light of knowledge gained,” he said.
The minister said that the Department of Hospital Services, FMOH, would lead the effort to increase the pool of experts and focal persons in various specialties.
He said the ministry will train trainers in Infection Prevention and Control at all service and health facilities and that one such training was recently concluded in Gombe state.
Ehanire said that the information session on COVID-19, conducted weekly by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was held on Thursday morning and that he had the opportunity of sharing Nigeria experience, as one of two countries invited to make presentations on national response strategies.
“A clear message from this briefing is that COVID-19 is a threat to mankind and there is need for all countries to work together for solutions that will allow equitable access to information sharing on therapeutics and vaccines.
“In the words of the Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, “by working together, we are protecting each other. In a global pandemic, none of us is safe until all of us are safe,” he stated.
According to him, Nigeria is also working with WHO to finalise enrollment with ACT Accelerator, a global mechanism tracking and sponsoring research organisations working on COVID-19 vaccine development.
He said: “We are also interested in the COVAX facility, a GAVI supported global initiative to procure and assure equitable access to vaccines, as soon as they are available, especially for Lower and Lower Middle Income Countries (LMIC).
“This will prioritise Nigeria for allocation of a part of two billion vaccine doses that will be secured, in a special plan to protect the interests of poorer countries,” he said.
He urged all Nigerians to take responsibility together, not only for today, but also for the days ahead, when the imperative to open the nation’s economy would demand great sacrifice and discipline from all.
The minister said that though the new normal might be demanding, but all government and citizens- must collaborate to halt the spread of this disease for each others sake.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)
No fewer than 818 million children globally lack basic handwashing facilities in their schools, putting them at increased risk of COVID-19 pandemic and other transmittable diseases.
This is part of the report, a Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), which showed that 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019.
“Around 818 million children lack basic handwashing facilities at their schools, which puts them at increased risk of COVID-19 and other transmittable diseases.
“More than one third of these children (295 million) are from sub-Saharan Africa.
“In the least developed countries, seven out of 10 schools lacked basic handwashing facilities and half of schools lacked basic sanitation and water services,” it said.
According to the report, other key findings showed that of the 818 million children who lacked basic handwashing service at their school, 355 million went to schools which had facilities with water but no soap.
It added that 462 million of the children went to schools which had no facilities or water available for handwashing.
“In the 60 countries at highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to COVID-19, three in four children lacked basic handwashing service at their schools at the start of the outbreak.
“Half of all children lacked basic water service; and more than half lacked basic sanitation service.
“One in three schools worldwide had either limited drinking water service or no drinking water service at all.
“Six hundred and ninety-eight (698) million children lacked basic sanitation service at their school,” it said.
The report also noted that as schools worldwide were struggling with reopening, handwashing with soap and water were key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said in the report: “Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and wellbeing.
“We must prioritise children’s learning. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen – including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation.”
Also, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools.
“It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”
The report stressed that governments seeking to control the spread of COVID-19 must balance the need for implementation of public health measures versus the associated social and economic impacts of lockdown measures.
It said that evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged schools closures on children’s safety, wellbeing and learning were well-documented.
The report identified several WASH-related protocols on hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfection.
Others were providing access to clean water, handwashing stations with soap, and safe toilets, as a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.
Edited By: Olawunmi Ashafa/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
L- R – Minister of State for Health , Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of Health , Dr Osagie Ehanire and Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen during the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week Ministerial Press Briefing in Abuja.
Maximising the benefits of breastfeeding during COVID-19 pandemic
, News Agency of Nigeria
Over the years, Nigeria has joined more than 170 countries to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week to create awareness and to generate support for improved feeding of newborn babies.
The week is aimed at creating awareness and support to improve breastfeeding practices for good health and wellbeing outcomes in infants, young children and mothers.
The 2020 celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week is particularly challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, among others, challenged the safety of breast milk during the pandemic.
However, to create awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding during the pandemic, the Federal Ministry of Health organised a long week event from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 on breastfeeding.
At a news conference organised as part of activities to mark the week, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr Abdulaziz Abdullahi, said that the advent of COVID-19 had further altered the dynamics of optimal breastfeeding through its secondary effect on household livelihood, fear of viral transmission during breastfeeding and undue exploitation by producers and marketers of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMs).
Abdullahi said “we do not want women to think that BMs are better than breastmilk.
“We are, therefore, using innovative means during the 2020 celebration due to social and physical gathering restrictions from COVID-19 pandemic to inform all that breastmilk is comparable to none other BMs.”
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that an estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding was practiced in the country.
The minister said that the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child were enormous, saying: “it makes immunity of babies stronger.
“It will reduce the risk of suffering in many childhood illnesses and infections, it is naturally environment-friendly since it does not draw on any resources or create environmental pollution.
“Its long-term health benefits include reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence, with studies showing that obesity rates are 15-30 per cent lower in breastfed babies compared with formula-fed babies.
“It also provides health benefits to mothers, by helping to prevent postpartum bleeding, support child spacing, lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and earlier return to pre-pregnancy body weight.”
Ehanire, however, said that in spite of the benefits, the breastfeeding indices in Nigeria were below optimal.
He said “according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018, conducted by National Population Commission (NPC), 97 per cent of children are breastfed at one point or the other, but only 42 per cent are put to breast within one hour of birth.
“And the proportion of children 0 to 6 months who are exclusively breastfed is a mere 29 per cent.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a series of the Lancet publications on breastfeeding, reports that scaling up breastfeeding practices to almost universal level can prevent an estimated 823,000 annual deaths.
“It could also prevent 13.8 per cent of all deaths of children younger than 24 months.”
He said the Federal Ministry of Health recommended early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth, and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Ehanire said that the ministry recommended continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond and introduction of appropriate complementary foods as from six months.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said that the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week highlighted the links between breastfeeding and planetary health.
The theme of the 2020 celebration is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”.
The minister added that the theme was aimed at informing people about the links between breastfeeding and the environment; it anchors breastfeeding as a climate-smart decision, engages individuals and organisations for greater impact.
Mamora said the theme galvanises action for improved breastfeeding practices.
He reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the 1990 Innocenti Declaration which enjoins all nations to protect, promote and support mothers to optimally breastfeed our infants and young children.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, said that commemorating the week, which dated back to 1992, coincided with the peak of advocacy around women issues and concerns during the Better Life for Rural Women Programme.
She said it was a reinforcement of the need for proper bonding between mother and child, from birth to six months exclusively before the gradual introduction of water and other forms of complementary feeding.
The Country Representative of UNICEF, Peter Hawkins in a goodwill message, said that almost 97 per cent of children in Nigeria were breastfed at some point but more was needed to be done when it comes to early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding to meet global targets.
Hawkins said “exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria has recorded minimal improvement over the years; 25 per cent in 2014, down to 23.7 per cent in 2016/17, and up again to 29 per cent in 2018.
“The global target is to increase exclusive breastfeeding rate in the first six months of life to at least 50 per cent by 2025.”
He further stated that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted optimal breastfeeding practices through its effects on household incomes and perception about its safety for both mothers and children.
He, however, added that there was no evidence that transmission of the virus could occur through breast milk.
According to him, the World Health Organisation recommends that all mothers – including those with suspected and confirmed COVID-19, be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies, while observing all necessary safety and hygiene precautions.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in his speech to mark the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week, emphasised the importance of the natural act of feeding babies, saying that mothers with COVID-19 should continue to breastfeed their babies.
He said “as we have seen again and again, standard public health measures are often the most effective and we are reiterating the importance of breastfeeding, which has lifesaving benefits for babies and families.
“At the time of COVID-19, especially when there is disruption to health services, WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed.
“Mothers should be counselled about the many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children, which substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection.
“Mothers and infants should be helped to remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact.
“They should remain together to practice skin-to-skin contact including kangaroo mothercare, especially after birth and during establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19,’’ he said.
He emphasised that the pandemic period was a time to call for stakeholders’ support to do more to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, as it reduces infant mortality and provides numerous lifelong health advantages, among others. (NANFeatures)
*If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria
WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, stated this in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.
“The first 17 health expects will arrive today and include key expertise in epidemiology, surveillance, case management, infection, prevention and control, procurement, as well as community mobilisation and health education.
“Among them is Dr David Heymann, a seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, who was at one-time, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment at WHO.
“He headed the response to the SARS epidemic in 2003, working with his team to mediate international efforts to halt the pandemic.
“These deployments have emanated from continued discussions between the Minister of Health, Hon Dr Zweli Mkhize, and WHO global and regional leadership.
“With South Africa now among the top five of the world’s most affected countries, it is critical to strengthen its COVID-19 response,” it said.
The statement quoted Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative for South Africa, as saying: “At this time when the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa is spreading rapidly, it is important that we work together to intensify our fight against the virus.
“For this reason, WHO is ramping up support to complement national and provincial efforts to scale-up the response.
“Our collective efforts are necessary to identify cases, isolate and provide care, follow up contacts and fully implement physical distancing and other key public health measures.
“In this way, we will minimise the spread and impact of COVID-19,’’ it said.
WHO will be primarily responsible for funding the international surge team with South Africa largely being responsible for providing administrative resources for smooth initiation and integration of the partnership.
They would work virtually from Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo and Geneva, Switzerland respectively to support the experts on the ground.
The statement quoted Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, as saying “Dr Moeti and Dr Ryan had become familiar and trusted figures in the fight against COVID-19.
“They have been supporting and complementing our national efforts and we have had very fruitful and honest discussions with them.
“WHO will greatly bolster our efforts as we have seen how effective their interventions have been in countries like China, Spain, Italy, Mauritius and other countries that have been through what we are facing now.
“I will also like to pay tribute to the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who has been steadfast in his leadership during a defining global crisis.
The delegation would be required to complete an initial period of quarantine and testing before being cleared for deployment in the country.
They would be initiated into the current national health efforts and informed on how the National Department of Health is supporting provincial COVID-19 programmes.
Then they would be deployed in the national department and the following provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal and Mpumalanga.
The statement further quoted Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the Director-General of Health, as saying: “These provinces have been identified as the ones needing the most urgent support where the first team can make the most impact.
“As the remaining experts are deployed by WHO, all provinces in the country will benefit from their presence,” it added.
The surge team is expected to contribute to national efforts in key response areas including surveillance and streamlining of epidemiological systems.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Donald Ugwu (NAN)
According to WHO, Breastfeeding reduces infant mortality and provides numerous lifelong health advantages.
“Breastfeeding mothers can breastfeed their babies even if they are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19.’’
“As we have seen again and again, standard public health measures are often the most effective and we are reiterating the importance of breastfeeding, which has lifesaving benefits for babies and families.
“At the time of COVID-19, especially when there is disruption to health services, WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed.
“Mothers should be counselled that the many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection.
“Mother and infant should be helped to remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practise skin-to-skin contact.
“They should remain together to practice skin-to-skin contact including kangaroo mothercare, especially immediately after birth and during establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19,’’ he said.
The weeklong long series of activities held from 1st to Aug. 7 every year, is aimed at creating awareness and generate support for improved breastfeeding practices for good health and wellbeing of infants and young children.
The theme of the 2020 celebration is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”.
The theme focuses on the impact of proper infant feeding on the environment, by garnering support for breastfeeding for the health of people and planet.
Edited By: Joseph Edeh/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu (NAN)
Ghebreyesus made this known at a virtual news conference on Monday at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.
The director-general said: “ We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection.
“However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be; for now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control.
“Testing, isolating and treating patients, tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all.
“Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all.
“For individuals, it’s about keeping physical distance, wearing a mask, cleaning hands regularly and coughing safely away from others. Do it all.’’
Ghebreyesus said the message to people and governments was clear: “Do it all, and when it’s under control, keep going! Keep strengthening the health system.
“Keep improving surveillance, contact tracing and ensure disrupted healthcare services are restarted as quickly as possible.
“Keep safeguards and monitoring in place, because lifting restrictions too quickly can lead to resurgence.
“Keep investing in the workforce and communicating and engaging communities.
“We have seen around the world, that it’s never too late to turn this pandemic around,’’ he said.
According to him, if we act together today, we can save lives, we can save livelihoods, if we do it all together.
He told journalists that the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 met on Friday and reviewed the current pandemic.
“It was a sobering moment coming six months on from when the committee advised.
“And, I agreed that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
“At the time, Jan. 30, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China.
“Since then, the number of cases has increased more than five-fold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled to 680,000,’’ the director-general said.
In addition to the direct toll COVID-19 is having, Ghebreyesus said the committee noted the health impact that disrupted services were having on a range of other diseases.
“That compounds what we already know about reduced immunisation coverage, cancer screening and care, and mental health services.
“A survey of responses from 103 countries between mid-May and early July, found that 67 per cent of countries report disruption in family planning and contraception services.
“More than half of countries reported disruption in antenatal care services and more than a third of countries reported disruption in child birth services.
“On top of the health impact, we have seen the damage COVID-19 has caused socially, economically and politically.
“The committee put forward a number of recommendations for countries to continue to implement to bring the virus under control.
“These range from sharing best practice, to enhancing political commitment and leadership for national strategies and localised response activities driven by science, data and experience.’’
He said from serology studies that most people remained susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks.
“Over the past week we’ve seen several countries that appeared as though they were past the worst now, contending with fresh spikes in cases.
“However, we’ve also seen how some countries, regions or localities that had a high number of cases are now bringing the outbreak under control.
“It’s not easy, of course. Strict measures may cause their own problems for delivery of essential health services, the economy and societies overall.
“The committee acknowledged that Member States have tough choices to make to turn the epidemic around.
“But, they were also clear that when leaders step up and work intensely with their populations, this disease can be brought under control.’’
He further said we learnt everyday about this virus.
“ I’m pleased that the world has made progress in identifying treatments that can help people with the most serious forms of COVID-19 recover.
“The committee recommended that countries engage in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, participate in relevant clinical trials, and prepare for safe and effective therapeutics and vaccine introduction,’’ Ghebreyesus said.
Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the global prevalence of potentially-deadly hepatitis B in children under five years dropped to under one per cent in 2019 – down from five per cent .
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who said this in a message to commemorate World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday, stated that the percentage of spread dropped from five to one in the pre-vaccine decades between the 1980s and early 2000s.
World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis — a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E — and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
According to him, the advance marks the achievement of a critical target in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): to reduce the transmission of hepatitis B in children under age five to under one per cent by this year.
The theme for 2020 World Hepatitis Day– “Hepatitis-free future” – has a strong focus on preventing the disease which attacks the liver, one of the five main strains, among mothers and newborns.
The director general said “no infant should grow up only to die of hepatitis B because they were not vaccinated.
“Today’s milestone means that we have dramatically reduced the number of cases of liver damage and liver cancer in future generations.”
According to him, preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B is the most important strategy for controlling the disease and saving lives.
Ghebreyesus added that “WHO is calling for united and intensified efforts to test pregnant women, provide antiviral prophylaxis to women who need it, and expand access to hepatitis B immunisation and its all-important birth dose vaccine.
“Globally, more than 250 million people live with chronic hepatitis B infection, according to WHO.
“Infants are especially vulnerable – and 90 per cent of children infected with hepatitis B in their first year of life become chronic carriers. Each year, the disease claims nearly 900,000 lives.’’
The director general noted infants could be protected from hepatitis B through a safe and effective vaccine that provides over 95 per cent protection.
He said WHO recommended that all infants receive a first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth – preferably within 24 hours – followed by at least two additional doses.
“Three-dose coverage during childhood, reached 85 per cent worldwide in 2019, up from 30 per cent in 2000.
“However, access to the first critical dose within 24 hours of birth remains uneven. Global coverage is 43 per cent.
“Coverage drops to 34 per cent in the eastern Mediterranean region and only six per cent in Africa,’’he also said.
In addition, Ghebreyesus said 325 million people live with hepatitis B or C. Each year, 1.3 million people lose their lives to these diseases.
“The first-ever global hepatitis strategy, adopted by countries at the 2016 World Health Assembly, called for an end to viral hepatitis by 2030, reducing new infections by 90 per cent and mortality by 65 per cent.
“Even talking about hepatitis elimination would have once seemed a fantasy but new drugs have transformed hepatitis C from a life-long deadly disease into one in most cases can be cured in 12 weeks.”
While medicines remain too expensive for patients in many countries, he pointed to cases of “incredible” progress, notably in Egypt, where 60 million people have been tested for Hepatitis C and linked to treatment, free of charge.
“There has also been progress in eliminating hepatitis B in Asia, where childhood immunisation coverage is high, including the all-important birth dose.
“Like so many diseases, hepatitis is not just a health problem, it is an enormous social and economic burden”, he said.
Edited By: Olawunmi Ashafa/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu (NAN)
WHO in a statement on Monday, said this was down from around five per cent in the pre-vaccine era, between the 1980s and the early 2000s.
It noted that the reduction marked the achievement of one of the milestone targets to eliminate viral hepatitis in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The statement comes a day ahead of this year’s World Hepatitis Day commemorated annually on July 28 to enhance global awareness of viral hepatitis.
The disease is characterised by an inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis-free future,” with a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns.
To build on the achievement, the global health body is calling for “united and stepped-up action” through intensified efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
It is advocating enhanced testing of pregnant women, provision of antiviral prophylaxis to those who need it, and maintenance and expansion of access to hepatitis B immunisation and birth dose vaccine.
“No infant should grow up only to die of hepatitis B because they were not vaccinated,” the statement quoted the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus as saying.
“Today’s milestone means that we have dramatically reduced the number of cases of liver damage and liver cancer in future generations.
“Preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B is the most important strategy for controlling the disease and saving lives.
“Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that mothers and newborns have access to life-saving services including hepatitis B vaccinations,” Ghebreyesus said.
Globally, more than 250 million people are living with chronic HBV infection, according to the organisation.
Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)