Prevent hepatitis- Act now: Launch of WHO Guidelines on Prevention, Care and Treatment of Hepatitis B in Maldives

On August 28, 2015, the World Health Organization Country office for Maldives, together with the Ministry of Heath Maldives and the Health Protection Agency, hosted an Event to launch new guidelines for prevention, care and treatment of Hepatitis B. The participants included doctors and other health professionals from the Ministry of Health, Health Protection Agency, Dhamanaveshi, Maldives Blood Services, Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital, and staff of the WHO office.

Globally, Viral hepatitis kills 4 000 people every day. Each year an estimated 1.5 million people die due to hepatitis, which includes deaths by liver cancer and cirrhosis. Nearly one third of the global hepatitis deaths – 500 000 - occur in the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR). This is more deaths than Malaria, Dengue, and HIV/AIDS related deaths all combined together.

These infections, disease, deaths and associated hardships for individuals, families, societies and economies can and must be prevented. Each infection carries with it a potential story of suffering, pain, lost livelihoods, missed opportunities, social, psychological and economic costs.

It is important to understand the routes of infection for devising prevention strategies such as to ensure injection and blood safety, adequate hygiene and proper sanitation, and most importantly, vaccinations to prevent Hepatitis infection. Vaccination of infants within the first 24 hours of birth and avoidance of risk factors are two solid pillars to help in our fight against hepatitis and our aim to eliminate this disease. Hepatitis B vaccination is included in primary vaccination in Maldives for several years with 95% coverage. In addition, there is a desirable coverage of Hepatitis B screening among pregnant mothers, which is essential to prevent mother to child transmission. Diagnostic services for pregnant mothers are increasingly available at different levels of health system. However, the challenges of adequate and equitable access to hepatitis prevention and control measures remain.

The Ministry of Health, Maldives is committed to work towards strengthening the surveillance systems in place to monitor and measure the prevalence of this disease, and build capacity of the health care providers to enhance responsiveness to prevent, diagnose, and treat viral hepatitis; and contribute towards the global targets of reducing the mortality and related harm.