World Hepatitis Summit 2022 urges action to eliminate viral hepatitis as unexplained hepatitis cases in children rise globally

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 will review progress and renew commitments from global partners to accelerate action to meet the global goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.

At the 2016 World Health Assembly, countries made a historic commitment to eradicate viral hepatitis by 2030. Since 2016, countries have met the 2020 global target to reduce the incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 years of age and the number of people being treated for hepatitis C has increased tenfold.

However, most countries have not met the other 2020 targets. Timely access to the hepatitis B birth dose is still low in many low- and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, lack of awareness, limited political involvement, stigma and discrimination continue to prevent people from getting tested and receiving care. It is estimated that 354 million people worldwide are still living with this life-threatening infection, with at least one person dying from viral hepatitis every 30 seconds. That’s more than 1 million deaths a year — a greater toll than HIV and malaria combined.

“Hepatitis is one of the most devastating diseases on the planet, but it is also one of the most preventable and treatable, with services readily and inexpensively delivered at the primary health care level,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.

“Many of the reasons people miss out on those services are the same reasons they miss out on services for other health issues — accessibility and affordability, because of who they are, where they live, or how much they earn. We call on all countries to commit to realizing the dream of eradicating viral hepatitis by 2030, as part of a wider commitment to universal health coverage based on strong primary health care.”

Most recently, in the months leading up to the Summit, approximately 700 cases of sudden and unexplained hepatitis in young children were investigated in 34 countries. Symptoms of this acute hepatitis come on quickly, leading to a large proportion of children developing liver failure, with a few requiring a liver transplant.

The summit will present these epidemiological updates and progress towards the commitment to eradicate hepatitis by 2030. In June 2021, the WHO issued interim guidelines on the criteria to be met in order to be validated for the elimination of hepatitis B and C viruses. Seven countries that have tried these criteria will share their experiences and progress on the path to elimination.

The new WHO Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) for Viral Hepatitis, 2022-2030 recently reviewed and noted at the World Health Assembly, will play a strong role in this summit, the strategy includes operational and strategic shifts to ensure we are on track globally to meet the 2030 goal of ending viral hepatitis disease.

This third World Hepatitis Summit opens with a high-level panel discussion with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General; Helen Clark, former Prime Minister, New Zealand; Professor Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Acting Minister of Health, Egypt; dr. Tenu Avafia, Deputy Executive Director, Unitaid; and Charles Gore, Executive Director, Medicines Patent Pool.

“The health of women and children must be a top priority if we are to eliminate hepatitis B by 2030. Hepatitis B is a major public health threat that requires collective efforts to promote the universal vaccination of newborns against hepatitis B and mother-to-child transmission,” said the Right Honorable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and chair of the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).

Danjuma Adda, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance, said: “We have come a long way as a global community in the pursuit of hepatitis elimination. I thank WHO and all partners for their support on this journey. We still have a long way to go to reach many populations affected by viral hepatitis. The World Hepatitis Summit pledges to deliver the strength of community, scientific and policy partnerships to achieve viral hepatitis elimination goals.”

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 will be virtually attended by delegates from more than 100 countries, including world leaders, health ministers, public health officials, medical professionals, parliamentarians, academics and representatives of organizations of people affected by viral hepatitis.

Notes to editors

About viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The WHO says the total number of deaths caused by viral hepatitis, including acute cases, cirrhosis and liver cancer, accounted for 1.1 million deaths worldwide in 2019. There are 5 different hepatitis viruses – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A and E is mainly spread through the ingestion of contaminated food and water and the disease is often endemic in countries with a lack of safe water and poor sanitation, but rarely becomes chronic. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person, and about 296 million people live with chronic infections. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as unsafe injection practices and inadequate sterilization of medical equipment. Today, 58 million people are living with the disease. Hepatitis D is transmitted through contact with infected blood and only occurs in people who are already infected with hepatitis B.

In total, more than 350 million people in the world are living with viral hepatitis. More than a million people lose their lives each year due to conditions related to acute hepatitis and chronic infections that cause liver cancer and cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis B and C infections are the leading cause of liver cancer.

Despite there being a vaccine and an effective treatment for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, few countries in the world are on track to meet the WHO target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030 (Polaris Observatory – CDA Foundation).

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022

Between June 7 and 10, a global audience of civil society, the WHO and its member states, patient organizations from the 318 members of the World Hepatitis Alliance, people with viral hepatitis B and C, policy makers, public health scientists and funders will come together virtually, at the World Hepatitis Alliance. Hepatitis Summit and in person in Geneva, to drive the global response to viral hepatitis. The World Hepatitis Summit is organized by the World Hepatitis Alliance and co-sponsored by the WHO. Its mission is to support countries in achieving the goals needed to eradicate viral hepatitis.

The World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is a patient-led and patient-driven non-governmental organization. With 318 patient groups from 100 countries, WHA works with governments, national members and other key partners to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and impact global change. To achieve a world free of viral hepatitis, WHA provides global leadership in advocacy, awareness and the fight to end its social injustice.

The World Health Organization

Committed to the well-being of all people and guided by science, WHO leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal opportunity for a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health connecting nations, partners and people on the front lines in more than 150 locations – leading the global response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health problems and expanding access to medicines and health care . Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Visit the WHO Global Hepatitis Program website.

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