President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi receives WHO certificate. Photo courtesy of Egyptian Presidential Spokesman
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom handed the certificate to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in a meeting in Cairo.
According to a statement by the Egyptian presidency, El-Sisi thanked the WHO for its support, expressing his pleasure with the achievement, given that the disease has long been a chronic health crisis in Egypt.
Egypt, he added, has dedicated all its capabilities to eliminating Hepatitis C through establishing treatment centres, preparing cadres, and providing millions of doses of medicine.
During the meeting, El-Sisi and Adhanom discussed cooperation between Egypt and the WHO on many issues, including increasing the Egyptian state’s efforts to support public health through presidential initiatives.
In a separate statement, the WHO congratulated Egypt for becoming the first country to achieve “gold tier” status on the path to eliminating Hepatitis C as per WHO criteria.
To earn WHO’s gold tier’, a country must diagnose at least 80 percent of people living with Hepatitis C and provide treatment to at least 70 percent.
Egypt diagnosed 87 percent of the people living with Hepatitis C and provided 93 percent of them with curative treatments, according to the WHO.
“Egypt’s journey from having one of the world’s highest rates of Hepatitis C infections to being on the path to eliminating the virus in less than 10 years is nothing short of astonishing,” said Adhanom.
“Egypt is an example to the world of what can be achieved with a combination of modern tools and the political commitment at the highest level to use those tools to prevent infections and save lives. Egypt’s success must give us hope and motivation to eliminate Hepatitis C everywhere,” he added.
Egypt has successfully reduced the prevalence of Hepatitis C from 10 percent to 0.38 percent in just over a decade, noted the statement.
Since the early 2000s, Egypt has been strengthening its national preventive and treatment programmes.
In 2006, the country established the National Committee for Control of Viral Hepatitis to oversee and lead the national Hepatitis response.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi launched a nationwide campaign in 2014 dubbed 100 million Seha (100 million Healthy Lives), only to be reinforced in 2018.
The campaign, whose aim was to eliminate Hepatitis C, offered free testing and treatment for the virus. It resulted in testing over 60 million and treating more than 4.1 million people.
The WHO indicated that locally manufactured direct-acting antiviral treatments were crucial to the campaign’s remarkable success – a 99 percent Hepatitis C cure rate among people who received treatment.
Globally, around 58 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis C.
While no vaccine exists for Hepatitis C, the virus can be cured with 8-12 weeks-long treatments.
The WHO estimates that 4 out of 5 people living with Hepatitis C don’t know they’re infected, which can lead to liver disease and cancer.
Hepatitis C causes the death of 3,000 people every day and one death every 30 seconds, according to the WHO.