A task force has been established in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as part of a province-wide campaign to combat hepatitis, which is spreading at an alarming rate, an official said on Wednesday.
"It is a one-week campaign with different components, including seminars, workshops, display posters and walks to raise awareness. The NWFP is the first region in Pakistan to launch such a campaign," the provincial health secretary, Dr Ihsan-Ul-Haq, told IRIN from Peshawar, adding that the federal government was working on a similar idea for the whole country.
A private pharmaceutical company had pledged to provide discounted vaccines, he said.
"Cases of hepatitis C have risen dramatically, making it twice as prevalent as hepatitis B," the chairman of the hepatitis task force in Peshawar, Dr Najibul Haq, told IRIN. "The main objective of the campaign is to increase awareness in people about the simple ways to avoid hepatitis, and we are targeting different groups to get the message across," he said, noting that the task force was also working on legislation with the government in respect to preventative measures.
All the districts in the NWFP were involved, with the three main components of the campaign intended to raise awareness amongst health workers, to hold public meetings in hospitals and arrange walks to raise awareness, Najibul Haq said, adding that his task force wanted to see the activities continue even after the campaign ended. He said it was also intended that the campaign should involve local religious and community leaders, members of parliament, heads of local government, councillors and health workers.
At present 18 percent of all patients admitted to general wards in hospitals in the NWFP suffered from hepatitis in one form or other, the chief of the NWFP government’s Health Sector, Research and Reform Unit, Dr Mohammed Rafiq, told IRIN from Peshawar. "There are nine million hepatitis B carriers in Pakistan. Hepatitis C carriers total over 14 million all over the country," he stated, noting that 80 percent of liver cancer incidence was caused by hepatitis.
Seventy-six percent of the people suffering from this illness get it through injections, which shows the poor state of sterilisation methods in surgical theatres," he said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions