One million people infected with Hepatitis virus in Afghanistan, WHO warns

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning stating that around one million people in Afghanistan have been infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses.

In a tweet on the occasion of “World Hepatitis Day” on Friday, WHO revealed that nearly 680,000 individuals are affected by Hepatitis B, while an estimated 320,000 are impacted by Hepatitis C in Afghanistan.

According to WHO, Hepatitis B and C are primarily transmitted when the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person enter the body of an uninfected individual.

WHO identified several groups at higher risk of exposure, including drug users, individuals sharing needles, prisoners, people in closed places, those exposed to unsanitary medical equipment, and those having unprotected sex or living with the HIV virus.

Furthermore, Hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. “Consult your health provided about getting a test for hepatitis before giving birth” the organization emphasized.

World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28, aims to raise awareness about the virus, its prevention, and treatment. This date also commemorates the birthday of Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus and the creation of the first vaccine to prevent its infection.

According to WHO, hepatitis B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and together are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and viral hepatitis-related deaths. An estimated 354 million people worldwide live with hepatitis B or C, and for most, testing and treatment remain beyond reach.

Some types of hepatitis are preventable through vaccination. A WHO study found that an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines, and education campaigns. 

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 has had a devastating impact on the country’s health system. The collapse of the government has led to a shortage of medicine, equipment, and healthcare professionals in many hospitals. This has made it difficult to provide even basic healthcare services to the people of Afghanistan.

The situation is further compounded by the rising poverty and hunger in the country. The UN has warned that over 28 million people in the country are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This includes food, water, shelter, and healthcare.