WHO calls for national actions on hepatitis

News release


According to World Health Organization estimates, chronic hepatitis B and C affect more than 500 million people worldwide.

Though home to about one quarter of the world population, the WHO Region for the Western Pacific accounts for more than 50% of the 240 million chronic hepatitis B infections worldwide.

“The good news is that chronic active hepatitis can now be treated. We have medicines, which are normally used for HIV treatment and cost less than one dollar a day. We have combinations of drugs that can cure hepatitis C with a three-month treatment regimen,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “I am proud of our leadership and hard work to save lives through hepatitis immunization at birth. But we cannot rest. We must do more to end the suffering of our affected populations.”

Hepatitis B-related cirrhosis and liver cancer are responsible for nearly 900 deaths per day—a rate comparable to tuberculosis—in the Western Pacific Region.

Despite this high burden, the levels of awareness and political and financial engagement are insufficient to address this public health challenge.

The Sixty-seventh World Health Assembly recognized viral hepatitis as a global public health problem and called upon governments and populations to take action.

The Regional Office for the Western Pacific has employed a new staff member dedicated full-time to hepatitis.

Through hepatitis B immunization, the Region as a whole and more than 30 individual countries and areas, have reached the 2012 milestone of reducing the rate of chronic hepatitis B infection among 5-year-old children to less than 2%.

While countries are now striving towards further reducing the hepatitis B among 5-year-old children to less than 1% by 2017, WHO calls for comprehensive action to tackle viral hepatitis.

In April 2014, experts from the Western Pacific Region concluded that disease burden estimates on hepatitis and comprehensive national action plans are an essential first step to combating any major health threat. They called on governments across the Region to approach viral hepatitis in the same way that most have for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Assistant, Public Information Office
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Telephone: + 632 528 9993
Email: serranor@wpro.who.int