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WHO warns of increase in cases of lesser-known diseases

Reporter: Coletta Wanjohi 丨 CCTV.com

08-23-2016 08:14 BJT

A World Health Organisation meeting in Ethiopia is aiming to tackle some of the lesser known diseases prevalent in Africa.

The WHO has identified potential new risks linked to lifestyle and poor diet on the continent.
Malaria, tuberculosis and HIV Aids are some of the most researched and well-documented diseases on the continent. But others -- like viral hepatitis, an infection of the liver -- are also taking their toll on healthcare services.

The World Health Organization says only 1 in 20 people with viral hepatitis knows they have it and just 1 in 100 suffering from the disease is being treated.

"We don't hear much about hepatitis," said Dr. Magda Robalo, Communicable Diseases Director, WHO.

"I think essentially because we don't have at this point data that explains to people how many people are affected how many are dying, where are they what can we do for them, but fortunately WHO has now developed a global strategy."

The 47 African countries attending the WHO meeting in Ethiopia have committed to developing plans to combat hepatitis.

The global health body has also raised concern about increasing reports of high blood pressure. It says Africa has the most cases of hypertension in the world.

"In our region, as you are aware, we consume a lot of salt and that is causing high prevalence of high blood pressure," Dr. Magda Robalo said.

"On top of that, because of poverty, of stress, people are trying to cope with the difficult situations. That will also put more on the heart and the cardiovascular system as well."

The WHO maintains solutions lie in setting up disease surveillance systems. But there are limits to how successfully this can be done.

Dr. Magda Robalo said:" It is a chain which many times is not fully completed. We collect data we don't analyse it, when we analyse it we don't take the action to resolve the problem that the data is telling us, not the right people get access to the right information they need."

Monitoring diseases in Africa is also hindered by a lack of resources.

The WHO says prevention of prevalent diseases relies highly on vaccination but also the regulation of production and consumption of items like tobacco and alcohol.

However, for many African countries the latter is complicated because those industries are big taxpayers and governments believe they sustain the economy.

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