The United Nations Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis has called for stepped efforts to stamp out the highly contagious liver infection by 2030, in line with the goals of World Health Organization (WHO), a Geneva-based UN agency.
The group, which was launched on the initiative of Egypt in September 2022, met at the Yale Club in New York on Sunday, as the 78th session of UN General Assembly continued its deliberations a short distance away.
The group is aimed at building political will to promote access to hepatitis prevention, care and treatment and provide a platform for exchanging information, best practices, models of innovation and lessons learned.
Pakistan was represented by its Ambassador to the United States, Masood Khan at the meeting, attended by health ministers, WHO officials, several UN ambassadors and representatives of member states.
Pakistan, he told the gathering, remains steadfast in addressing the hepatitis’ challenge and achieving WHO’s targets of its elimination by 2030.
“Our priorities include updating the National Strategic Framework, improving surveillance, expanding hepatitis B birth dose vaccination, increasing HCV (hepatitis C virus) testing and treatment, and engaging community-based organizations,” he said.
“These steps will bring us closer to eliminating hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.”
In his remarks, Ambassador Masood Khan said that objectives of the Group of Friends aligned perfectly with the overarching theme of UNGA-78, focusing on rebuilding trust and rekindling global solidarity to accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to estimates, around 15 million people in Pakistan are affected from Hepatitis B and C, with 150,000 new cases reported every year. These multifaceted challenges stemmed from unsafe blood transfusions, unhygienic dental treatments and reused syringes.
Referring to the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination for the launch of National Hepatitis Elimination Profile (N-HEP) Initiative in 2022, the Ambassador said that Pakistan plans to screen millions of individuals and treat millions affected by hepatitis by 2030.
Masood Khan said that Pakistan deeply appreciates pivotal role of international partners, particularly Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in the fight against hepatitis.
Pakistan has also formed partnerships with the corporate sector through Corporate Coalition for Viral Hepatitis Elimination in Pakistan (CCHEP), consisting of 12 leading companies. These alliances, he said, have strengthened our resolve to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
He said that Pakistan is committed to building strong partnerships, both domestically and internationally, to ensure the success of its hepatitis elimination efforts.
BY NADEEM FAISAL BAIGA