The Cross River State Department of Health has embarked on free vaccination and screening of citizens for Hepatitis.
This is part of the measures taken to contain the spread of the virus, especially in rural communities.
Chief Executive Officer of the Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Janet Ekpenyong, made the remark while pointing to a municipal work organized by the Ministry of Health to mark World Health Day. this year’s hepatitis in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, south-south Nigeria.
Dr Ekpenyong, who also joined in raising awareness among shopkeepers, commuters, pedestrians and shoppers, said that in line with the 2022 theme of “bringing hepatitis care closer together”, the state government targeted more than 5,000 grassroots people for vaccination and free testing.
She says, “we educate our people in the communities. We urge our people to verify their status by getting tested and vaccinated to protect themselves. We have also equipped all our PHCs (Primary Health Care Centres) with test kits and vaccines to ensure we reach our target of 5,000 people in our rural areas.
“For this year, in addition to Calabar, we will be going to Boki Local Government Area for awareness raising as Boki is the LGA with the highest prevalence of Hepatitis B in Cross River State. We are very deliberate in our interventions and awareness, we will have them tested and vaccinated.
Describing hepatitis as one of the silent killer viruses in the world with no visible symptoms in a carrier, the chief executive said: “In Nigeria, over 20 million people are living with Hepatitis B and yet they don’t even know it because most of the time it comes at a very advanced stage where complications have already set in. These are things we want to change.
“For us, as a government, we are committed to ensuring that the people of Cross River stay healthy and alive. The Governor, Professor Ben Ayade has made kits and vaccines available for people to get vaccinated and tested for free at all of our primary health care centres,” she pointed out.
Create a database
The coordinator of the state program for HIV and hepatitis, Ms. Mary Ama, revealed that a technical working committee has been set up to exploit the various data collected by the various partners in the field and develop a bank of reliable data.
She further suggested that the ministry, together with its partners, has raised awareness across the state of 20 to 70% despite the challenges of adequate funding and support for care.
“We have set up a technical working committee to harness all the data from our partners working in different local government areas to enable us to have a reliable data bank that we can say categorically is the number of people tested and either negative or positive.
“Over the years, some of the challenges we have encountered are access to reliable data, as the different organizations working in the field gather their data and own it without sending it to a central point for harmonization. But with the committee, that would soon be a thing of the past.
“Additionally, we are always asking for support and funding to expand our services to a wide range of people across the state, whether you are from here or not. Hepatitis does not discriminate by race, ethnicity, tribe or age. We need everyone on deck to end the scourge of hepatitis,” Ama pointed out.
Several partners, including Lions Club Regions 4 and 5, led by President, Mr. Anthony Olanipekun, joined in the street awareness campaign, handing out flyers and condoms as they individually addressed the people.