A medical camp held at a slum in Islamabad yielded shocking results after it was found that 25pc of the slum’s residents had tested positive for hepatitis. The disease is becoming a major health problem in Pakistan that has the second highest prevalence rate of hepatitis ranging from 4.5% to 8%, which accounts to a staggering 20 million people that are infected with Hepatitis B and C. The reason behind the high number of Hepatitis patients remains the lack of access to potable drinking water, despite promises being made that this will change.

Recent studies on small, targeted groups including blood donors, health professionals, drug abusers and chronic liver disease patients indicate that the prevalence of Hepatitis C is as high as 40%. This is alarming as it points to a failing public health system and the utter lack of quality in its services. Contributing factors are lack of audits and monitoring system in hospitals and poor management hierarchy. Many of the day care centers like basic health units (BHU) and primary health centers (PHC) are just fragile structures without any policy, resources or even trained staff. Sharing of needles, unsterilised medical equipment with the combination of presence of quacks and a lack of awareness contributes heavily to the rapid spread of this deadly disease.

Follow-up studies and documentation of Hepatitis patients is more than lacking and needs to be improved. There have been no recent large-scale studies on risk factors and prevalence of hepatitis B and C in Pakistan and there is a pressing need which is why it should be done on an urgent basis. If the government sets up regional laboratories for prevalence study and also a central institute for Hepatitis research and treatment, the disease could be prevented in a better and proper way. The treatment of Hepatitis is very costly and Pakistan should direct its focus on preventive measures.