The Senate

The Senate is making efforts to draft and pass a bill for the establishment of National Agency for the Control of Hepatitis (NACH), Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said.

He made the disclosure at the 5th edition of Mike Omotosho Annual Lecture with the theme “Achieving Zero Hepatitis” held on Tuesday in Abuja.

Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver, commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of the disease.

These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.

The chairman, therefore, stressed the need for increased awareness to educate Nigerians on the need to go for screening and for early medication.

He said, “the Senate is taking steps to totally eradicate Hepatitis in the country.”

According to him, five health committees in the Senate and House of Representatives had earlier formulated the Legislative Health Agenda as regards an innovative approach to set the direction for legislative contribution to healthcare reform in the country.

He explained that the establishment of NACH would help to halt the transmission and eradicate Hepatitis in the country before 2030.

He reiterated the determination of the Senate to stop the transmission of viral hepatitis and to make it assume front burner position in public health disease control efforts like the control of HIV.

He said, “We shall work to draft and pass the bill for the establishment of the National Agency for the Control of Hepatitis in Nigeria.”

The committee chairman noted that the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly (NASS) would ensure the review and passage of the National Blood Transfusion Bill, which would enhance the safety of transfused blood in patients.

He explained that “because blood transfusion is one of the common modes of transmission of viral hepatitis in Nigeria, we are going to ensure the review and passage of this bill.

“This will ensure enhanced safety of transfused blood and emergency medical, surgical, obstetric and gynaecological outcomes in Nigeria.”

Oloriegbe noted that other areas that would be pursued to ensure health policy reforms and attainment of Universal Health Coverage include; National Health Insurance Commission Bill, State Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS).

Others are; National Health Act, NAFDAC Amendment Bill and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of tertiary health institutions bill.

On his part, the Convener of the event, Dr Mike Omotosho, a Pharmacist and Philanthropist, said it was necessary to educate Nigerians about the dangers of the disease.

He said it was sad that a huge number of Nigerians were living with the disease but were not aware, noting that “Hepatitis is a silent killer with mundane and similar symptoms as ordinary flu, worst still there may not be symptoms at all.’’

Omotosho, who is also the President of the Nigerian Hepatitis Zero Commission, says the responsibility of the commission is to ensure zero transmission of the disease in Nigeria by 2030.

He emphasised the need for Nigerians to “get talking, get tested, get vaccinated and get treated.’’

Dr Austin Uhumwangho, a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada, also stressed the need for Nigerians to know their Hepatitis status to prevent complications.

Uhumwangho said that “symptoms of the disease were usually minimal, until it gets to a devastating stage, affecting the liver and causing other complications.”

Dr Chizoba Wonodi, the Country Director, International Vaccine Access Centre, said that Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable, while Hepatitis C can be cured, and urged all to go for screening for early detection and treatment.

She emphasised that the vaccine would help to ensure a hepatitis-free society and other complications like liver cancer that might arise from it.

Participants at the lecture availed themselves of the free screening and vaccines for Hepatitis B and C.