A UN Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis
On September 20th, the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination hosted a side-event to the 77th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on “Solidarity for Hepatitis Elimination: A Call for a UN Group of Friends.” This event brought together participants from more than 20 countries, including ministers of health, permanent representatives to UN missions, national hepatitis program coordinators, alongside international partners.
A total of 10 official county representatives from Chile, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Ukraine voiced commitment to joining a Group of Friends over the course of the event. Similar support was voiced by government affiliated academic representatives from China and Japan. Korea announced readiness to explore formation. The official launch of the Group of Friends is expected in the coming months with the signing of a Charter enabling Member States to formalize their commitment.
Progress Towards a Group of Friends
To build on the momentum from the event, Member States will look to finalize the Group of Friends governance and goals. Egypt has expressed a commitment to chairing the Group, with Minister of Health Khaled Abdel Ghaffar expressing, “The formation of this group is a glimmer of hope...we are ready to help all countries that suffer the threat of hepatitis." The Coalition will support the Minister and other appointed officials to lead discussions among interested member states on finalizing the Group of Friends Charter and identifying priority activities. The Coalition is exploring hosting secretariat functions for the Group of Friends.
Why is a Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis needed?
Viral Hepatitis is a massive global health threat. More than 300 million people live with viral hepatitis, and it kills 800,000 people a year. Despite the availability of safe testing, treatment and vaccines, viral hepatitis causes more deaths globally than HIV, malaria, or tuberculosis. Unfortunately, many countries lack the funding and political urgency necessary to defeat the disease. Deficiencies in resources and infrastructure, as well as a dearth of reliable data, are major barriers.
In recognition of the threat posed by viral hepatitis, the United Nations and the WHO have established goals for elimination by 2030. Those goals include specific targets: a 90% reduction in incidence and a 65% reduction in mortality.
Right now, though some countries are meeting benchmarks towards these goals, many are not. Only by scaling up efforts to vaccinate newborns and sharply increase testing and treatment, particularly in Africa, will we achieve global elimination. A UN Group of Friends can unite the world in a shared purpose, with cooperative health diplomacy, to eliminate hepatitis by the end of this decade.
What will a Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis do?
The activities of the Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis will be determined by the participating Member States. The Coalition is supporting communications to encourage participation by all Member States and increase awareness regarding the launch mission and goals of the group.
The Group of Friends will focus on building political commitment for hepatitis elimination within countries and globally. Participating Member States will meet regularly, along with supporting organizations, with goals such as information sharing, strengthening international cooperation, and promoting equity.
Who can join?
Member States of the United Nations General Assembly can join the UN Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis through the Representatives of their Permanent Missions.
Where can I get more information on the UN Group of Friends?
If you are a representative from a Member State or a related health organization, and you would like specific information on joining the Group of Friends to Eliminate Hepatitis, please email us at globalhep [at] taskforce.org.