JUBA, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan and Egypt have come together to fight viral hepatitis in a bid to eliminate the disease in the east African country.
South Sudan's health minister Riek Gai Kok said Wednesday that the Egyptian government has dispatched a team of doctors, vaccines and medical equipment to Juba to help in the fight against hepatitis B and C, which are common in the world's youngest nation.
"This is going to be a joint effort between the two countries to protect our people, and Egypt is coming in to help South Sudan eliminate hepatitis C and also tackle B," Kok said.
The North African country announced in June that it would be providing hepatitis C testing and treatment for 1 million people in 14 African countries, including South Sudan.
Kok said Hepatitis prevalence in South Sudan is estimated to be 9.7 percent, adding that the disease currently kills more people in the country than Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS.
"According to our assessment, hepatitis is killing more people than TB and HIV. We are receiving reports from the army and police that the number of new recruits testing positive for Hepatitis is very high, and this is a concern to us," Kok added.
Kok revealed that the first phase of the project would target 1,000 people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and one of the leading causes of death globally, causing some 1.45 million deaths each year.
There are five hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread.
WHO said types B and C in particular are chronic in hundreds of millions of people and are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids.
Oromo Francis, assistant professor of pathology at the South Sudan College of Physicians and Surgeons, said viral hepatitis virus remains a major threat to millions of South Sudanese people.
Francis urged the government and partners to boost the fight against viral hepatitis by promoting awareness, testing and treatment services across South Sudan.
"So far, our hepatitis prevalence is higher than the WHO criteria, which is a serious problem," he said. "All of us need to open our eyes and act now."