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“A public health concern in Cameroon”
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“A public health concern in Cameroon”

Eyoh FidelHepatitis is a growing public health issue in Cameroon, writes Eyoh Fidel, 24, a Correspondent from Cameroon. Low rates of public awareness and drug availability are challenges in the fight against the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which can be self-limiting or can progress to a more severe infection such fibrosis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. This infection can either be caused by the hepatitis viruses, toxic substances or autoimmune diseases.

Hepatitis is becoming a public health issue in Cameroon. January 2016 statistics indicate the estimated prevalence rate for Hepatitis B in Cameroon stood at ten per cent while Hepatitis C was 13 per cent, making Cameroon one of the most infected countries in the world.

Three major issues surround the rapid spread of this viral infection in Cameroon: the cost of treating the disease, the shortage in specialised medical personnel, and the availability and accessibility of drugs. The low level of public awareness is also an issue.

These major concerns have added a burden to the public health sector in Cameroon, which before the rapid spread of this virus was still struggling to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In trying to tackle this “new” viral infection, the Cameroon government has taken some proactive moves that can help remedy the situation and reduce the rapid spread of the disease. In 2012, the government had a convention with one of the major laboratories that supplies hepatitis treatment to Cameroon. The deal led to a 33 per cent reduction in the price of the drugs. In January 2016, a press conference by the minister of health further brought news to Cameroonians that treatment for hepatitis would be far cheaper from January 2016. He announced that hepatitis patients could see their cost of treatment drop by one third to one half of the previous cost.

Apart from sourcing for financial accessibility for its infected citizens, the government of Cameroon has sought to promote the training and specialisation of medical personnel on the treatment of viral hepatitis. As of March 2016, the Cameroon Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, has presided over an international seminar that aims at linking the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences of Yaoundé with other laboratories that are researching on the virus.

Despite the above efforts, we can still identify two major challenges to this fight against hepatitis. These are problems related to the availability of drugs, and the problem of public sensitisation.

Recent reports, for example, from the national centre in charge for the procurement of essential drugs show that the supply for some Hepatitis ‘C’ drugs such as Sofosbuvir and Ribavirine  can only reach  3,000 patient, whereas the total demand is about 200,000. Public sensitisation about the disease has also been an approach used in this fight, but an approach which has not yet been fully exploited for it to yield fruits. This is because there is still a great number of the population, specifically in rural areas, that are ignorant about this virus.

photo credit: hcv2015_05 via photopin (license)
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About me: Hello guys, I am Eyoh Ukume Fidelis from Cameroon. I am currently a graduate student at the Pan African University Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences based in Yaounde, Cameroon. My master’s degree is on Governance and Regional Integration, my research interests focuses on democracy and institutional building, governance and development in Africa.

I plan to pursue a future career in international development within the African continent. My hobbies include travelling to new places and swimming.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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