Egypt Launches United Nations Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis
The Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations launched the Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis with a kickoff meeting on February 28, 2023. The event was hosted by Ambassador Osama Abdelkhalek and attended virtually by sixty participants from more than twenty-five member states. Also in attendance were partners from WHO, the African Union, and the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination, which serves as secretariat of the group.
Ambassador Abdelkhalek opened the meeting with an encouraging reminder of Egypt’s success in screening more than 60 million people for hepatitis C and curing about 2 million people of the disease. He described Egypt’s willingness to lead the Group of Friends, and to encourage information sharing and diplomacy. Members of the group are united in their efforts to meet the WHO sustainable development goals, which include benchmarks for eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. The ambassador stated, “If Egypt has managed to have that success, it can be replicated.”
Dr. Harvey Alter, a Nobel laureate who was awarded for his contributions to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, also attended and gave an inspirational message to the group as he called on attendees to “show wonderment that you, as an individual and as a country, could participate in the elimination of a prevalent, lethal disease.”
As secretariat for the group, the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination was represented by Dr. John Ward, the Coalition director. He was encouraging in his optimism that the tools needed to achieve elimination are available, but he emphasized the need to ensure equity in global efforts to vaccinate, test, and treat viral hepatitis. “We have that package of interventions that can eliminate hepatitis…[but] we have some work to do,” said Dr. Ward. He said the aim of the Group of Friends should be to “call attention to inequities, create a forum for information exchange, and bring new stakeholders to the table.”
Representatives from many countries spoke in strong support of the group, expressing their willingness to join and collaborate, including Japan, Morocco, Algeria, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Sudan and Portugal.
For more information on the UN Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis, visit https://www.globalhep.org/un-group-friends-eliminate-hepatitis.