UNODC urges Nigeria to prioritize interventions for drug users and persons in closed settings as Nigeria commemorates 2022 World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is commemorated globally every year to renew the attention of policy makers and the general population on the importance of viral hepatitis as a disease of public health importance. The global theme for the 2022 commemoration is “Bringing hepatitis care closer to you.” As part of the renewed commitment to hepatitis care, the  Honourable Minister of Health organized a press briefing where a national advocacy and awareness campaign to generate momentum for demand creation was flagged off. He also formally presented Nigeria’s new National Strategic Framework for Viral Hepatitis (2022-2026).

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today emphasised the need for well-coordinated target and context-specific interventions, to address Nigeria’s high viral hepatitis contribution of 18 million persons to the global burden. The Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe noted that the expansion of the key population (KP) classification to include people in correctional centers and those in closed settings in addition to the people who inject drugs (PWIDs) among others is an indication of the Government’s commitment to using data to inform policy and effective programming. His goodwill message was delivered by the National HIV/AIDS Consultant, Uduak Daniel:

As we commemorate 2022 World Hepatitis Day, the global theme, “Bringing hepatitis care closer to you” couldn’t have been more apt, especially as recent data has shown high prevalence of 8.1% and 1.1% for hepatitis B and C virus (HBV and HCV) respectively, a strong geographical disparity in the prevalence of HBV as high as 17% and 19%, high HCV seropositive rates and low awareness among the general population.

To effectively raise awareness about hepatitis care to communities and individuals, focus on vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations such as people who inject drugs (PWIDs), as well as people in custodial centers and other closed settings is imperative. This is because the prevalence of HCV is higher in prisons compared to the general population, and although there is no known published national HCV prevalence study in prisons an independent study conducted in 2020 among 142 people aged 18-50 years in a custodial center in Nigeria showed a HCV prevalence of 29.6%.The prevalence was twice higher among men (31.0%) compared to women (15.4%).

UNODC continues to support Nigeria’s achievement of universal access to comprehensive cascade of relevant health services for PWIDs and for people in custodial centers. More specifically, UNODC provides capacity building and technical support. We also support research and advocacy. More recently, efforts have been particularly focused on improving evidence-based policy review and development, harm reduction among PWIDs and gender-sensitive issues in Nigerian correctional centres. The first ever “Drug Use Survey in Nigeria” and “National Situation and Needs Assessment of HIV and AIDS, Drug Use and Related Health Services in Nigerian Prisons” both conducted in 2018 have informed other researches among sub-typologies like women in custodial centres.

UNODC looks forward to supporting the integration of hepatitis prevention, treatment and care during intake of new inmates, enrolment of infected incarcerated persons into care as well as pre and post-release linkage to community services. We hope to support the National Viral Hepatitis TWG meetings, development of Viral Hepatitis data collection tools, guides, training materials and subsequent celebrations of World Hepatitis Day across the country. FMOH can also count on our support for the training of master trainers that can cascade knowledge and skills on prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis and related health conditions, vaccination, including Covid-19 for PWIDs and people in custodial settings.