The African Hepatitis Summit 2019 is convened by Uganda Ministry of Health and hosted by The National Organization for People Living with Hepatitis B (NOPLHB) on behalf of the African Chapter of World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA). The Uganda Gastroenterology Society (UGES) and the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO) are the co-organizing partners. The Summit will be chaired by Prof Ponsiano Ocama, Chair Department of Medicine, College of Health Sciences Makerere University.

Viral hepatitis is a major global public health problem. New WHO data reveal that an estimated 325 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The WHO Global Report, 2017 indicates that the majority of these people lack access to life saving testing and treatment. As a result, millions of people are at a risk of a slow progression of chronic liver disease, cancer and death. Together, viral hepatitis causes the deaths of almost 1.5 million people every year, the overwhelming majority as a result of chronic infection complicated by cirrhosis and liver cancer.  This is the same level of mortality as caused by HIV/AIDS. 73% of all liver cancer deaths worldwide are due to hepatitis viruses with much higher proportion in low and middle-income countries.

Viral hepatitis is highly endemic in the African Region, which therefore contributes significantly to the global burden of disease. The precise burden in the continent is difficult to quantify because of poor or inaccurate data and under-reporting but statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reveal that liver cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in African men and third in African women.

In May 2016, a historic commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 was made by 194 Member States. At the 69th World Health Assembly, governments unanimously voted to adopt the first ever Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy signaling demonstrates considerable political will, more work will be needed to make the elimination of viral hepatitis a reality. Most African countries still lack national plans on viral hepatitis. That means that a dramatic scale up in resources and prioritization is vital.

This first ever African summit will support efforts by providing a platform that allows African Member States to learn from other countries, have access to technical advice from WHO’ Global and Regional Hepatitis Programme as well as discuss the implementation of an intensified national response to the disease with key stakeholders in the field.