Speech by Dr Wiwat R, WR Mongolia on the occation of World Hepatitis Day, 27 July, 2012
Honorable Vice Minister of Health, Dr. J. Tsolmon
Distinguished media representatives, Ladies and Gentleman
Today we are gathering here to mark the World Hepatitis Day by celebrating the country remarkable successes against hepatitis B and pledging to sustain the effort and expand to control other hepatitis. The slogan for this year campaign is “Hepatitis: It’s closer than you think. Know it. Confront it.” It provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the different forms of hepatitis: what they are and how they are transmitted; who are at risk; and the various methods of prevention and treatment. Moreover, I am pleased to have learned that this year Mongolia has achieved the regional goal of less than 1% chronic hepatitis B prevalence among children under 5 years old, which is confirmed by a multi-national independent verification panel. Therefore, I would like to congratulate MOH for this remarkable public health achievement of protecting Mongolian children from devastating effects of the hepatitis B virus. This achievement is a result of the continuous efforts of public health professionals. The achievement is also implying that Mongolia immunization programme has been implemented at the best quality.
Hepatitis is one of the most prevalent and serious infections in the world; but many people including health policy makers remain unaware of its health danger. Globally, approximately 500 million people are infected with hepatitis virus; and 1 in 12 people live with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis. Together, they kill about 1 million people every year.
In Mongolia, some recent surveys indicate that viral hepatitis B has been widespread and highly endemic in Mongolia. More than 77% of the Mongolian people have been infected with the HBV at some time of their lives, and 10 - 22% are estimated to be chronically infected with this virus. Another 10% have been estimated to be infected with HCV. Unfortunately, many of them are unaware of their infection that develops possible fatal liver disease at some point of their life and unknowingly transmitting the infection to others. Consequently Mongolia has the world’s highest rate of liver cancer mortality — six times the global average. One of every ten deaths in the country is due to HCC or its common precursor, liver cirrhosis.
Hepatitis is highly contagious and easily transmitted through contaminated food and water, infected mother to child at the time of birth, unsafe sex, exposure to infective blood and other infected body fluids. Yet, hepatitis is frequently preventable and treatable, and sometimes also curable. The prevention starts at birth, with an effective and safe vaccine. For hepatitis C, prevention is still dependent on safe blood transfusion, safe injection practices, and safe sex. In addition, some other health practices like proper screening of blood used for transfusion, use of sterile injection equipments, and consumption of safe food and water could provide best protection and prevention from viral hepatitis infection.
I was very pleased that Mongolia government had approved new strategy to control hepatitis in 2010. The strategy aims at decreasing viral hepatitis infection to 10 per 10,000 populations by 2015. The strategy is very comprehensive and scientifically sounded. In support of the strategy, I am pleased to announce that WHO is donating 50,000 doses of hepatitis B vaccine and some ancillary items such as syringes and safety boxes, which will be sufficient to vaccinate 25,000 health workers. We hope that Government will identify additional fund to cover remaining health workers, as the strategy defined.
In conclusion, I would like to express my appreciation to the MOH for their good work and facilitation. I assure WHO's further collaboration with all our partners to prevent and control viral hepatitis in Mongolia.